Supremes Gaming Decision Draws Fans, Fire

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The Supreme Court's decision that a California ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to kids was an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech drew immediate praise from the Motion Picture Association of America and The Media Institute, while the Parents Television Council decried it.

MPAA and the media companies backing the institute had been concerned that if the ban were reinstated -- it was thrown out by a lower court--it would not only be a blow to the rights of video game users but could be used to restrict content in other media.

""The motion picture industry is no stranger to governments' incursion on freedom of expression. From the very inception of the movie industry, attempts to restrict speech have threatened the creativity of American movie-makers," said MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd. "We applaud the Supreme Court for recognizing the far-reaching First-Amendment implications posed by the California law."

"The Media Institute applauds the Supreme Court's decision today in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, holding that video games qualify for First Amendment protection," said Media Institute president Patrick Maines. "We heartily agree with the Court that 'a legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech' and that California's attempt 'to create a wholly new category of content-based regulation' for speech aimed at children was 'unprecedented and mistaken.' This is an important victory for the First Amendment."

PTC saw it entirely differently. "When an industry trade group files a federal lawsuit to defend a child's constitutional rights, the alarm bells should be deafening," said PTC president Tim Winter. "It is hard to imagine a more cynical proposition. Sadly, today's ruling proves the United States Supreme Court heard the video game industry loud and clear, but turned a deaf ear to concerned parents. The Court has provided children with a Constitutionally-protected end-run on parental authority," said Winter.

But the court five-judge majority that signed on to the opinion in the case also explicitly defended children's Constitutional rights, concluding that the California law "abridges the First Amendment rights of young people whose parents (and aunts and uncles) think violent video games are a harm-less pastime."

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