Supreme Court Justices weighed in on the videogame violence bill written by California state Senator Leland Yee and supported by the state's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and if you look over the transcripts, it honestly doesn't look like the bill sits well with the justices based on its vagueness, yet it still allowed the case to be submitted for consideration.
According to remarks made in today's hearing, the bill obviously steps all over the First Amendment, and the judges asked California representative Zackery Morazzini some tough and rather comical questions regarding the proposed law.
Here are just a few:
- Justice Sotomayor: “Would you get rid of rap music? Have you heard some of the lyrics of some of the rap music, some of the original violent songs that have been sung about killing people and about other violence directed to them?. Why isn’t that obscene in the sense that you’re using the word – or deviant? One of the studies, the Anderson study, says that the effect of violence is the same for a Bugs Bunny episode as it is for a violent video. So can the legislature now, because it has that study, say we can outlaw Bugs Bunny? There are people who would say that a cartoon has very little social value; it's entertainment, but not much else. This is entertainment. I'm not suggesting that I like this video, the one at issue that you provided the five-minute clip about. To me, it's not entertaining, but that's not the point. To some it may well be.
- Justice Scalia: “A law that has criminal penalties has to be And how is the manufacturer to know whether a particular violent game is covered or not?. Does he convene his own jury and try it before—you know, I really wouldn't know what to do as a manufacturer. What about excessive glorification of drinking, movies that have too much drinking? Does it have an effect on minors? I suppose so. I am not just concerned with the vagueness. I am concerned with the vagueness, but I am concerned with the First Amendment, which says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. And it was always understood that the freedom of speech did not include obscenity. It has never been understood that the freedom of speech did not include portrayals of violence. You are asking us to create a whole new prohibition which the American people never ratified when they ratified the First Amendment. They knew obscenity was bad, but what's next after violence? Drinking? Smoking? Movies that show smoking can't be shown to children? Will that affect them? Of course, I suppose it will. But are we to sit day by day to decide what else will be made an exception from the First Amendment? Why is this particular exception okay, but the other ones that I just suggested are not okay? Some of the Grimm's fairy tales are quite grim, to tell you the truth. Are they okay? Are you going to ban them, too? That same argument could have been made when movies first came out. They could have said, oh, we've had violence in Grimm's fairy tales, but we've never had it live on the screen. I mean, every time there's a new technology, you can make that argument."
- Justice Ginsburg: What's the difference? mean, if you are supposing a category of violent materials dangerous to children, then how do you cut it off at video games? What about films? What about comic books? Grimm's fairy tales? Why are video games special? Or does your principle extend to all deviant, violent material in whatever form?
There's some other golden nuggets in there, which you can read for yourself in full through here.
Entertainment Software Association counsel Paul Smith piped in on the proposed law, stating it was no different than the hearings on comic book hearings in 1954, stating this happens every time a new medium comes out to the public.
"We do have a new medium here," said Smith, "but we have a history in this country of new mediums coming along and people vastly overreacting to them, thinking the sky is falling, our children are all going to be turned into criminals. It started with the crime novels of the late 19th century, which produced this raft of legislation which was never enforced. It started with comic books and movies in the 1950s.
"There were hearings across the street in the 1950s where social scientists came in and intoned to the Senate that half the juvenile delinquency in this country was being caused by reading comic books, and there was enormous pressure on the industry. They self-censored. We had television. We have rock lyrics. We have the Internet."
The case was thus submitted to the Supreme Court, and a ruling is expect by June.
It all honestly, it doesn't look like it's going to pass at all.