Five years after California passed its controversial violent videogame law, the United States Supreme Court will finally determine if restricting the sale of games to minors is legal. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in Schwarzenegger vs. Entertainment Merchants Association on November 2.
The rundown for anyone that hasn’t been following the long, drawn-out case: California passed a law in 2005 that made it a crime to sell “excessively violent” videogames to anyone under the age of 18. Exactly what constitutes “excessive” would be determined by the State Attorney General. The ESRB ratings would be considered, but would not be used as the official guidelines.
The Entertainment Merchants Association deemed the law unconstitutional and sued the state. The U.S. District Court agreed and struck down the law in 2006. California appealed, pointing to a previous Supreme Court ruling that allowed the restriction of sexually explicit materials to minors. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t see the link between violent videogames and pornography and once again ruled the law was unconstitutional. Now, as a last ditch effort, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken the state’s case to the Supreme Court, whose ruling will finally decide the matter once and for all.
The case marks the first time the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments regarding state laws that seek to restrict or ban the sale of certain videogames. Numerous states have attempted to pass legislation similar to California’s violent videogame law, and all such laws have been deemed unconstitutional restrictions of free speech by lower federal courts.