A federal judge has prevented a recently passed video game law in California from being implemented. The judge imposed a preliminary injunction and said that the law was likely to fail constitutional muster.
The law, proposed by Assemblyman Leland Yee of San Francisco, would impose fines against retailers who sell violent or sexually explicit video games to minors. The legislation, known as AB 1179, was signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier this year, and was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2006.
The law drew the legal attention of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), a video game industry organization that has successfully fought similar legislation in other states, as well as the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA), a trade association for the home entertainment industry. They said that the legislation violated the First Amendment rights of video game developers and publishers.
The ESA also says that such legislation is unnecessary, thanks to a ratings system that provides age ratings for video and computer games and descriptions of content. Yee and other proponents of the law say that clerks and cashiers at video and computer game retail stores too often ignore the ratings and allow minors to buy such material without parental consent.
Judge Ronald White, United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, imposed a preliminary injunction against the law, stating that the plaintiffs “are likely to prevail in their argument that the Act violates the First Amendment.”
Earlier this year, federal judges in Michigan and Illinois similarly halted legislation seeking to curtail the sale of certain games to minors.
ESA President Douglas Lowenstein applauded Judge Whyte’s decision, and stated that his organization deeply respects “the concerns of the Governor and the Legislature that gave rise to the law.”
Lowenstein contends that, given this is the sixth time in five years that Federal courts have overturned laws seeking to regulate the sale of video games to minors based on their content, it’s time to look for another solution — one that emphasizes “cooperative efforts to accomplish the common goal of ensuring that parents use the tools available to control the games their kids play.”
Lowenstein and the ESA advocate for the continued use of Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) ratings on packaging, parental education and the implementation of parental controls in next-generation video game consoles, all as alternatives to legislation.
“In sum, we believe a combination of parental choice and parental control is the legal, sensible, and most importantly, effective way to help parents keep inappropriate video games from children, and we dedicate ourselves to working with all parties to accomplish this goal,” said Lowenstein.
Assemblyman Yee’s office was not immediately available for comment.