A federal appeals court gave the video game industry a big boost Tuesday, reversing a controversial lower court decision and ruling that games are protected by the First Amendment.
Last April, Senior U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh ruled that computer and video games had "no conveyance of ideas, expression or anything else that could possibly amount to free speech" in a St. Louis County case that sought to limit children's access to mature video games.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying a "particularized message" is not required when it comes to the First Amendment.
"If the First Amendment is versatile enough to 'shield [the] painting of Jackson Pollock, music of Arnold Schoenberg, or Jabberwocky verse of Lewis Carroll,' we see no reason why the pictures, graphic design, concept art, sounds, music, stories, and narrative present in video games are not entitled to a similar protection," the court said in its ruling. "The mere fact that they appear in a novel medium is of no legal consequence."
St. Louis County had argued that stories are incidental in games, and players often skip straight to the action. The court acknowledged this, but noted the same could be said of today's action-packed movies, such as "The Matrix." Additionally, it said, home viewers of these films can easily skip to the action sequences using their DVD players or VCRs.
"The fact that modern technology has increased viewer control does not render movies unprotected by the First Amendment, and equivalent player control likewise should not automatically disqualify modern video games," the court said.
Experts say the ruling could have broad implications. Specifically, it could be a key factor in the upcoming appeal of Washington state's recently signed law banning the sale of certain violent video games to people under the age of 17.
News source: CNN