In an 7-2 decision the United States Supreme Court ruled that California’s proposed ban making the sale or rental of M rated games to minors a criminal offence was unconstitutional, as it would violate freedom of speech. The court ruled in a lawsuit filed in 2005 by two of the largest industry groups, the Entertainment Merchants Association and the Entertainment Software Association, whom had objected to the law written by Democratic State Senator for San Francisco/San Mateo Leland Yee, which had proposed to fine retailers $1,000 for selling or renting games to individuals who are underage. The ban had not come into effect however due to an injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte of San Jose.
In regards to the historic ruling Justice 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.”
A clearly disappointed Yee indicated that he would continue to pursue a “narrower” version of this law which the court would find acceptable;
“Unfortunately, the majority of the Supreme Court once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children.”
“We’re pouring through the opinions to see where we can create a pathway for a successful bill that could withstand a challenge.”
Mr Yee is standing for election in the San Francisco mayoral contest to be held on the 8th of November this year.
This is an issue we here at Reaper Gaming have taken a great interest in since the whole debate began and have indeed joined the ECA (and signed the partition relating to this matter) in a show of support. We are pleased that the United States Supreme Court has come to this rational, sensible and just decision, once again proving that the American idea of the right to Freedom of Speech is sacrosanct and should be admired by all right minded peoples and nations. This is a ruling that places the responsibility back into the hands of parents, where we believe it belongs rather than into the hands of the state or government, this is a point that Mr Yee clearly disagrees with us on, yet we also find his comments regarding the courts ruling “…Supreme Court once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children” crass, short sighted and nothing more than an attempt to add to the fear mongering generated by the pseudo-scientific studies into the affect of video games on children and young adults. If the State Senator believes that this decision is only good news for multinational gaming and retail corporations, we would suggest that he takes time to consider what damage a $1,000 fine would do to small independent stores who are struggling to survive in these times of global economic hardship.
The effects of this ruling are already being felt across the United States, as can be seen in Utah, a state which had also proposed to pass a similar anti-gaming law and now thankfully will be unable to do so (further information on this story can be found here). Behind California, Utah would have been only one of the many states who surely would have adopted these oppressive laws and ideas, leading to the possibility of retailers being afraid to stock and or sell titles containing mature content at all, in fear of being unwittingly caught out by such unjust regulation. This would of course influence the gaming industry on a much wider scale, leaving both developers and publishers questioning the financial validity of producing titles designed for an adult market if stores are reluctant to sell them, leaving much anticipated titles such as Grand Theft Auto 5 in danger of having its content diluted or even cancelled all together.
You can visit the ECA here and join with them in the struggle to keep our rights as gamers to choose what we play and for the responsibility that comes with these choices to be ours and ours alone and not that of any law or decree which government at any level may so choose to impose. We at Reaper Gaming stand behind ECA and we implore you to do the same.