California's failed video game law sponsor vows to continue fight

The California politician whose failed video game law was overturned by the Supreme Court earlier this week vows to continue fighting, and says that evidence is "crystal clear" that violent video games hurt kids.
Written by Peter Cohen, Inactive

The Supreme Court ruled earlier this week to overturn a California law legislating the sale of violent video games as unconstitutional, but that's not stopping the creator of the law from vowing to continue to fight.

State Senator (and San Francisco mayoral candidate) Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) told the San Francisco Appeal that he hopes to "create a pathway for a successful bill that could withstand a challenge" from the Supreme Court.

Yee's bill was signed into law in 2005 by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It would have fined video game retailers up to $1,000 per infraction for selling violent video games to minors.

The law was immediately challenged by a video game industry consortium; U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte put in place an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced.

In addition to arguing on First Amendment grounds, lawyers representing the video game industry noted that major retailers already abide by a voluntary rating system created by the video game industry itself. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rates video games by content and provides an age rating and description of content. The system is modeled after the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) movie rating system.

The law was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court in a 7-2 ruling that found that video games are entitled to the same artistic protection under the First Amendment granted to books, movies, plays and other creative works. It's a precedent-setting ruling and the first time the Supreme Court has heard such a case.

Michael Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), called the Supreme Court's ruling "an historic and complete win for the First Amendment" and artists and storytellers.

"The Court declared forcefully that content-based restrictions on games are unconstitutional; and that parents, not government bureaucrats, have the right to decide what is appropriate for their children," said Gallagher.

Yee, a child psychologist before he turned to politics, said that "the evidence is absolutely crystal clear that there are harmful effects on our children" from violent video games - a claim refuted by the Supreme Court, which said the evidence is far from convincing.

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