Gamers and the games industry at large have won a significant victory Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the video game industry and retailers. In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) (formerly known as Schwarzenegger v. EMA), the court struck down a California law that bans the sale of violent video games to children, ruling that the “the act forbidding sale or rental of violent games to minors does not comport with the First Amendment.”
The vote was 7-2 in favor of rejecting the law, which has had a permanent injunction placed on it.
“As a means of assisting concerned parents, it (the law) is seriously over-inclusive because it abridges the First Amendment rights of young people whose parents (and aunts and uncles) who think that violent video games are a harmless pastime,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the court’s ruling.
“Video games qualify for First Amendment protection,” continued Scalia. “Like protected books, plays and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. Reading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat. But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones.”
Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the dissenting opinion, noted that “the First Amendment does not disable government from helping parents make such a choice here—a choice not to have their children buy extremely violent, interactive games.”
In a concurring opinion to the majority decision, Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that members of the government and the courts “should make every effort to understand the new technology presented in these sophisticated video games.”
California State Senator Leland Yee, who originally proposed the law back in 2005, said on San Francisco’s KGO radio Monday morning that he would “analyze the decision before determining his next step,” adding he believed that the court had sided with corporate interests of companies such as Wal-Mart.
Read the full opinion of the court here.