SCOTUS rules against violent California games law

Monday, 27th June 2011 15:35 GMT By Staff

The Supreme Court of the United States has sided with the videogames industry, declaring it the winner in the EMA (Entertainment Merchants Association) vs Brown case that has gone on for six years.

The vote in the case, which argued over the constitutional rights of a law which would have have governed the sale of videogames to minors, came in at a 7-2 ruling against California.

It was written by California senator Leland Yee and was passed into law by then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 2005. Schwarzenegger’s name was removed from the case name after Jerry Brown took over as governor.

The games industry, obviously, was vehemently opposed to the bill.

Justice Antonin Scalia said that the bill “does not comport with the 1st Amendment.”

Videogame stocks showed a mixed reaction to the result.

There’s more on the victory at GamePolitics and at the links below.



  1. IL DUCE

    Yeeeeeah booooy…finally that crap is over with (I hope)

    #1 4 years ago
  2. CaptPierce

    Jack Thompson, eat your heart out.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. LOLshock94

    @2we will do this until we pass out….

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Phoenixblight

    Jack Thompson is not in the picture he was disbarred years and years ago.

    This is good now it will be another couple of years until the next politician tries to beat that drum again.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Fin

    I’ve never quite understood the opposition to these laws.

    Sure, there’d be concern of subjective interpretation of the word “violent”, and general “KEEP UR HANDZ OFF OR GAMEZ”, but I wasn’t able to buy an 18-rated game without ID when I was growing up (in Ireland).

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Toastrules

    This just in: The supreme court partakes in secret Black Ops clan: Rule OvR You

    #6 4 years ago
  7. Phoenixblight


    And your aren’t allowed to in the states EMA fines the store that does so. EMA already regulates the stores selling violent videogames. The government doesn’t need to be overstepping their power when the EMA is doing a far better job then Hollywood with their movies.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. DSB

    Some US states do have some very weird censorship rules, especially with regards to how they might reflect on the constitution, but if you really want to push obscenity legislation, you have to go to the UK.

    I’m amazed at how much shit politicians talk about preserving fundamental freedoms, while taking the low route as soon as something doesn’t agree with them, or they believe that there are somehow voters to be had.

    @7 How can they fine someone unless they’re a member? It’s a trade union, no?

    The MPAA and ESRB do hold considerable sway on certain politicians/state governments, and a lot of retailers, though.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Phoenixblight

    All stores that sell videogames sign that contract its the way it works there are no trade unions in the states.

    Just like if a company leaks a game prior to a release date they are liable to get fined 5k per case.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. DSB

    Technically that’s what they are, even if they prefer the term “trade association”.

    I didn’t know they had it all locked down though.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. hitnrun

    @5: I agree with your position, but I understand why the laws are constantly struck down by the US courts.

    In the US, right and wrong, good and bad, helpful or not are not valid legal points when discussing speech issues. The government has no authority to regulate speech (at least in theory). In other words, selling cop killing games to 10 year olds might be wrong, but we Americans do not recognize any governmental authority to police that.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind the law, but the courts (particularly the Supreme Court) have to be careful about setting precedents allowing entertainment to be regulated, particularly stateside where the lawyers mill about like piranha.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Phoenixblight

    I worked in retail and my manager told me this along with you know possibility of lawsuits from the parents for selling a ‘M’ game to a minor. I get carded everytime I buy a M game and I am well over that age because they are so strict about it.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. DSB

    Bummer. One thing I don’t appreciate about the US is getting carded whenever you want to have fun.

    I can see the fear of civil suits, but as far as I know, there are still states that haven’t made ESRB requirements part of the law. Of course that doesn’t stop the retailers from enforcing them, to preserve their image. Or organisations like EMA from forcing them into submission.

    It is a shame though. I think hitnrun is right that laws like these will have a hard time going to the supreme court, but the problem with a country like the US is that the state governments, or sometimes even the county authorities have no problem sneaking censorship or crazy legislation under the radar. Sadly few people try to challenge it.

    I think it’s something like the half of Mississippi that is still living under the Volstead Act. Maybe not the legislation itself, but you can actually find yourself in a part of America that’s still enforcing prohibition. Insanity.

    It’s the same in Alabama, where sextoys can’t resemble actual genitalia. So freedom of expression doesn’t count if you’re trying to shape a cock, or a sexdoll?

    #13 4 years ago
  14. hitnrun

    @13: Well, an unambiguous SCOTUS ruling like this will go a long way toward preventing any further legislation like this. Anything which passes will be summarily struck down by lower courts and will be denied appeal.

    The alcohol thing is actually trickier – the repeal of Prohibition in the ’30s actually didn’t make alcohol legal again; it just returned to the states the right to make it legal. So MS is within their rights to regulate it.

    As for the sex thing…well, that’s why I said “in theory.” :) The SCOTUS has ruled certain forms of “indecent” speech as unprotected. Which was actually an argument during this case: “Are they suggesting videogames are placed in the same category as porn?!”

    #14 4 years ago
  15. Fin


    Ah I see, so this is a free speech/constitutional/government oversight argument, rather than a games argument.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. hitnrun

    @15 To the average person, probably not :) But to the courts, absolutely. Anything they rule will be used as a precedent down the road, so unless the lawyers and judges can come up with a way in which videogames are completely different and severable from, say movies or books (and they can’t), they can’t – or at least, shouldn’t – issue a ruling that restricts their sale.

    Like what me and DSB are talking about above, you make one ruling about “indecency” in the ’60s, and before you know it, states are banning dildos.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. Freek

    Giant Bomb has a nice article up about why the law was bogus:

    It was too vague and most imporatantly: it singled out videogames for regulation but not any other form of media.
    Making it more like censorship and less about regulation.

    #17 4 years ago
  18. Hunam

    The industry should propose a good regulation law for video games themselves then. The problem we have at the moment is people like Jack Thompson have ammo because a minor can buy massively violent games if the store chooses to let them. In the UK we have our age ratings enforced by law which gives protection to our games developers. When some Mum complains about games making her child violent, we can just point out that by law he couldn’t buy those games so she must have given them to him and she has full responsibility for the games he plays. This means we can push our games as much as we can because we can say safely and legally that the games are meant for adults only.

    #18 4 years ago
  19. Patrick Garratt

    I’ve added in links to everyone else’s coverage there.

    #19 4 years ago
  20. NightCrawler1970


    #20 4 years ago

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