Federal Appeals Panel Strikes Down Video Game Law

By: Samantha Young, Associated Press Email
By: Samantha Young, Associated Press Email

SACRAMENTO (AP) - A federal appeals court on Friday struck down
a California law that sought to ban the sale or rental of violent
video games to minors.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2005 law
violates minors' rights under the First and 14th amendments to the
Constitution. The unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel upholds
an earlier ruling in U.S. District Court.

The state law was authored by Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San
Francisco, who is a child psychologist. Yee said he wanted Attorney
General Jerry Brown to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme
Court.

"We need to help empower parents with the ultimate decision
over whether or not their children play in a world of violence and
murder," Yee said in a statement.

The law would have prohibited the sale or rental of violent
games to anyone under 18. It also would have created strict
labeling requirements for video game manufacturers.

In a written opinion, Judge Consuelo Callahan said there were
less restrictive ways to protect children from "unquestionably
violent" video games that digitally depict people being killed or
maimed. For example, the justices said the industry has a voluntary
rating system and that parents can block certain games on video
consoles.

The state law has never gone into effect and was challenged
shortly after it was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A U.S.
District Court blocked it after the industry sued California over
constitutional concerns.

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Camille Anderson said the governor
was reviewing Friday's decision.

"The governor believes strongly we have a responsibility to our
children and our communities to protect against the effects of
video games depicting ultra-violent actions," she said.

The Encino-based Video Software Dealers Association, now known
as the Entertainment Merchants Association following a merger, and
the Washington, D.C.-based Entertainment Software Association
argued that California's restrictions could open the door for
states to limit minors' access to other material under the guise of
protecting children.

The court agreed, saying California was "asking us to boldly go
where no court has gone before."

"The state, in essence, asks us to create a new category of
non-protected material based on its depiction of violence,"
Callahan wrote in the 30-page ruling.

California lawmakers approved the law, in part, by relying on
several studies suggesting violent games can be linked to
aggression, anti-social behavior and desensitization to violence.
The justices dismissed that research.

"None of the research establishes or suggests a causal link
between minors playing violent video games and actual psychological
or neurological harm, and inferences to that effect would not be
reasonable," Callahan said in her ruling.

Michael D. Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software
Association, said the ruling underscores that parents, with help
from the industry, are the ones who should control what games their
children play.

"This is a clear signal that in California and across the
country, the reckless pursuit of anti-video game legislation like
this is an exercise in wasting taxpayer money, government time and
state resources," Gallagher said in a statement.

Courts in several other states have struck down similar laws. A
spokesman for Brown said the attorney general would review the
decision to determine the appropriate steps.


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