This week, we’ve examined both sides of the upcoming Supreme Court case of Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchant Association and Entertainment Software Association, the case that will decide whether California’s law prohibiting the sale of “violent” video games is in fact, as deemed by lower court rulings, unconstitutional. The restrictions proposed in Assembly Bill No. 1179 appear straightforward, but as we’ve seen this week, those restrictions raise many serious First Amendment issues, not only for minors in terms of their rights, but most significantly for the video game industry as well.
For Part One of this series, we took you through the Assembly Bill that was drawn up by then California Assemblyman, and now Democratic State Senator, Leland Yee, and signed into law by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
For Part Two, we examined California’s arguments as laid out in their Supreme Court brief. Basically, the State defended three key points: 1) Violent video games should be treated the same as explicit sexual content and should therefore not be afforded the same First Amendment rights as protected speech, 2) Access to violent video games contributes to violent behavior in minors, and 3) The “Act” is the least restrictive means for limiting kids’ access to violent video games.
For Part Three, we ran through the arguments on behalf of the Respondents in the case, the EMA and ESA. The groups countered California’s case on four fronts: 1) Video games are forms of expression deserving of First Amendment protection, 2) Carving out a special category of speech for “offensively violent video games” would be unprecedented, 3) The Act fails strict scrutiny, and 4) The Act is unconstitutionally vague.
If you haven’t had a chance to read through these summary posts, I recommend you do so that you have a better overall understanding of both sides of what will surely be one of the defining moments in the history of the gaming industry. While it does seem that California has a very steep hill to climb, particularly when you consider prior decisions in cases involving any form of potentially perceived censorship and popular forms of entertainment that have gone before the Supreme Court, You never know what can happen when those nine Justices get in that room and start hashing things out.
Perhaps most compellingly of all is that this case will be among the first to be considered since President Barack Obama’s two nominees, Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, were appointed to the highest court in the land. As a result, I would expect Schwarzenegger v. EMA/ESA to get quite a bit more exposure than it would have otherwise. Whether that ends up being a good thing or a bad thing really depends on the outcome of the case. Either way, we’ll be bringing you all of the latest news leading up to November 2 and beyond.
If you just can’t get enough of the case and want to ingest even more about it, Media Coalition has a great collection of all the amicus briefs that have been filed in support of California and in support of the EMA/ESA. For you budding entertainment layers you out there, or anyone who fancies themselves a lover of the legal system, I suggest checking them out. And please keep up the awesome discussion in our comments section. It's been great to follow, and it's something we never get tired of seeing. Keep it going!
[image source: Encyclopedia Britannica]