This morning's decision by the US Supreme Court to strike down a California law that would have restricted the sales of some video and PC games with violent content has, as expected, generated lots of chatter on the Internet, both for and against the 7-2 decision. One of the most visible is the image shown above this post that is now greeting visitors to Valve's Steam PC game download site.
The US video game trade group the Entertainment Software Association issued its press release on the decision. Its president and CEO Michael D. Gallagher is quoted as saying, "Today, the Supreme Court affirmed what we have always known – that free speech protections apply every bit as much to video games as they do to other forms of creative expression like books, movies and music." Another statement today comes from Bo Andersen, the CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association (officially the other side of the US Supreme Court case). While Anderson also praised the ruling today he is also a bit more cautious, stating, "While we appreciate this victory in the court of law, it does not obviate the concern that parents may have about the appropriateness of some video games for their children." He added that, " ... parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home."
Meanwhile the man who created the law in the first place, California State Senator Leland Yee, claims that he plans to try again to craft a law that will restrict the sale of games with violent content that will also pass muster with the US Supreme Court. In his official statement on his web site, Yee (who also happens to be running for mayor of San Francisco) states, "Unfortunately, the majority of the Supreme Court once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children. As a result of their decision, Wal-Mart and the video game industry will continue to make billions of dollars at the expense of our kids’ mental health and the safety of our community."
in a story on the SFAppeal.com web site, Yee states, "We're poring through the opinions to see where we can create a pathway for a successful bill that could withstand a challenge." He refers to the two dissenting opinions given by US Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. In addition, two other judges, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, both agreed that while the California law wouldn't work another law written with a more narrow focus might be able to pass constitutional muster. Of course that doesn't change the fact that five out of the nine justices still voted today that any such law that tries to restrict games with violent content would not work. In his written opinion Judge Antonin Scalia wrote, "Like protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas--and even social messages. That suffices to confer First Amendment protection."
The other major player in this court fight is current California Governor Jerry Brown. While it was former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that signed Yee's bill into law back in 2005 it was Brown, acting as the state's attorney general, who made the decision to appeal the case twice, including the push to the US Supreme Court after the law was struck down by two lower courts in 2007 and 2009. In a statement sent to Neowin by Governor Brown's media reps, he states simply, "We defended California’s ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to children, but the Supreme Court has concluded the law is unconstitutional. Needless to say, the Supreme Court’s ruling is final and it will be followed."
Image via Valve