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US Supreme Court: Video Games Qualify For First Amendment 458

Wrath0fb0b writes "The United States Supreme Court threw out a California law prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors. Notable in the opinion is a historical review of the condemnation of "unworthy" material that would tend to corrupt children, starting with penny-novels and up through comic books and music lyrics. The opinion is also notable for the odd lineup of Justices that defies normal ideological lines, with one conservative and one liberal jurist dissenting on entirely different grounds. In the process, they continue the broad rule that the First Amendment does not vary with the technological means used: 'Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And the basic principles of freedom of speech... do not vary with a new and different communication medium.'"
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US Supreme Court: Video Games Qualify For First Amendment

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  • by jarich ( 733129 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @11:59AM (#36584862) Homepage Journal
    The court said that parents should filter what their children see and do. Score one against the nanny state monitoring us for our own good.
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @11:59AM (#36584864) Homepage

    We are not free but slaves of puritanism...

    Very true ... in my lifetime, the most notable example of this was when Tipper Gore was trying to get a bunch of music banned. This, of course, led to Dee Schneider in the most ball-hugging jeans you could imagine testifying about why what she was proposing was just plain wrong.

    Everyone wraps themselves in the flag, and talks about freedom, but often they only mean for people who they agree with. You can't have free speech if you don't support the right of people to say offensive things just because you'd rather not hear it (or because you think it's causing out moral decay).

    It's amazing how vocal people can be about making sure that the rights of other people are limited so as not to offend their own sensibilities.

  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @12:02PM (#36584906) Journal

    Let me just say; Hear hear! Well done Supreme Court.

    Our rights (ALL of them) are not to be given away to petty tyrants for any reason, even "For the Children".

    As a fellow conservative, I must disagree. I see no problem with a state limiting what a minor may buy. Just a state may place limits on buying alcohol, pornography and cigarettes, I see no reason why a state may not place age restrictions on video games.

    Note: No is saying that minors are not allowed to play these games, only to PURCHASE them. As a parent, I not only appreciate the idea that I would have to be the one to purchase the material, but I also like the idea that other parents would have to purchase the material for their kids. It's a parent's responsibility to keep up with what their kids are doing. This law would have helped a parent do that. As for the parents too lazy to get off their ass to buy the games? These are the same parents that won't monitor what their kids are doing and are EXACTLY the parents of the kids I don't want owning violent/pornographic video games.

    With all that said, I would more than likely buy such games for my kids and even play them with them, but I like the idea of ME being in control.

  • How... Ironic. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @12:06PM (#36584974) Journal
    " JUSTICE THOMAS, dissenting.

    The Court’s decision today does not comport with the original public understanding of the First Amendment. The majority strikes down, as facially unconstitutional, a state law that prohibits the direct sale or rental of certain video games to minors because the law “abridg[es] the freedom of speech.” U. S. Const., Amdt. 1. But I do not think the First Amendment stretches that far.

    The practices and beliefs of the founding generation establish that “the freedom of speech,” as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors’ parents or guardians. I would hold that the law at issue is not facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and reverse and remand for further proceedings."

    Justice Thomas should, perhaps, stop to consider that the "practices and beliefs of the founding generation" establish a number of other interesting boundaries to the distribution of various freedoms...
  • by jdastrup ( 1075795 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @12:07PM (#36584984)
    While I agree with most of what you said, you also understand that if your child buys a violent video game without your permission, even if the state/country/store/vendor allows it, then you're not in control of your child, are you?

    Another example, cigarettes. So what if a store can't sell them to your child. He/she can still get them somewhere else, have someone else buy them, etc. I don't really care if a store can sell my son cigarettes or not. I raise my children not to smoke, regardless of the source of the cigarette. If he/she smokes anyway, it's not the store/friend/anyone else fault, except his/her and my lake of parenting skills.
  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @12:08PM (#36584988) Journal

    You totally missed the point since you stopped reading. The GP isn't saying the government is requiring something of the parents, but simply that because the government is NOT requiring retailers to police what games children buy/play, by default, the parents are required (not by law, but by the LACK of law, and by their own set of standards) to take responsibility for what they do and don't want their children playing.

    That is to say, the parents are required by their own conscience to BE good parents, or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 27, 2011 @12:09PM (#36585004)

    Kids can't buy porn.
    Kids can't see R-rated movies.
    Kids shouldn't be able to buy violent video games.

    As a life long gamer I see absolutely no problem with restricting sales of games with violence or sex to adults only.
    What's the point of challenging that? Do we want 8-year olds to save their lunch money and play Grand Theft Auto?

  • by zzsmirkzz ( 974536 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @12:10PM (#36585026)

    I see no reason why a state may not place age restrictions on video games.

    Because that is the state putting a restriction on speech which they are specifically denied the power to do. This is what the Supreme Court determined and is true. Just because you "do not see the reason", doesn't make it false. Read the Constitution and learn & accept the limitations on the power of The State that were included - they were put there for a reason, from lessons learned from the experiences of the people at the time. When it comes to abuse of power from the State/Government they knew a lot more than we do, they lived through it - their experience/wisdom should be learned from and respected.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 27, 2011 @12:21PM (#36585210)

    You, like many people who don't live in the US or don't understand how the laws work, are missing the point, which is that the *government* does not regulate any of those things. The US movie industry is self-regulating, that is, production houses submit their movies to the MPAA, which gives the film a rating. The producers don't *have* to do this, but if they don't, their movie likely won't be shown in any US theaters, who generally require every film to carry an MPAA rating.
    Again, the government has nothing to do with this. Additionally, the government cannot punish theaters for allowing kids in to R-rated movies, as that would be unconstitutional restriction of free speech. It's entirely up to the theater itself, a private company who has the right to deny access to anyone they want.

    Currently, the video game industry works the same way: ESRB ratings are voluntary, not required by law, but publishers submit their games for ratings because they want their games in stores. It's up the stores, private companies, to decide whether to enforce these ratings.

  • by surgen ( 1145449 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @12:51PM (#36585746)

    Thomas' argument about how even in speech matters the parent is still the intermediary, I can say what I want, but the parent has control over what their children can here.

    This was an interesting argument, but it kind of fell apart when I thought about the situation at hand.

    Essentially: How can a child be at a game store, in position to buy a game, without the parent having relinquished (or be ineffective at) their roll as the intermediary?

    If the parents want a store to drop their child off at confident that they will not be sold a violent game, it is a failing of the market to create such a store. Such stores could exist side by side with stores that do sell violent games to children (the situation we currently have). It is not the place of government to create that type of store at the cost of every store that would not follow the model.

    Furthermore, legislation against the child buying that M-rated game isn't going to do anything to stop all the other forms of speech the child will potentially be subject to while in the store without supervision or on the way to/from the store.

    As Scaila says in his opinion, such legislation does not enforce parental authority, but instead imposes government authority.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @12:57PM (#36585844) Homepage

    You're always limiting the rights of other people, including their right to live, by asserting your rights. The problem is where to draw the line.

    I disagree with that thesis entirely.

    Their right to live does not mean in any way that I'm required to surrender mine. Just because you might need an organ donation, doesn't confer an obligation upon me to give it to you. The same as the "right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" doesn't actually guarantee you a job or to be happy ... merely the right to look for it.

    Because, as soon as you start doing the calculus of whose life is more valuable ... you start using the poor as spare parts for the rich.

    In my opinion, both of your examples are nonsensical and contrived. That isn't about 'offending someone else's sensibilities' .... it's about making your own rights inferior to that of someone else. I don't see any ambiguity in where to draw the line you seem to think is a broad and fuzzy expanse ... your rights can't extend past the security of my own person.

  • by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @01:40PM (#36586530)

    That's fair, and you have a right to your opinion.

    (Incidentally, I am also an American, and I have also lived outside the United States.)

    However, as a parent, I don't want to have to deal with public displays of nudity and sexuality and the loss of innocence for kids that comes along with it. For adults, yes, it's not a big deal. When you bring kids into the equation, it's a problem. And when you are talking about society as a whole, Kids are ALWAYS in the equation. Thus, we have Obscenity laws designed to keep those kinds of things in private where they belong.

    Incidentally, I agree with you on the violence. We have become far too loose with both sex and violence in public, and it's impacting our society for the worse.

    In the case of this SCOTUS decision though, the California law did less to help parents than it did remove rights from minors and force an undue burden of enforcement on the game makers and retail outlets. It was right for SCOTUS to strike this one down.

  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Monday June 27, 2011 @01:43PM (#36586560) Journal

    No, Obscenity is excluded so that parents and families don't have to deal with issues of trying to protect their kids from public displays and advertisements that include pornographic images.

    Funny how your ideals don't match our reality. How many arrests under obscenity law have anything to do with selling or showing porn to children? When you have to fly porn producers from California to Pennsylvania [] in order to find someone they offend, what is the point of "community standards"?

"Wish not to seem, but to be, the best." -- Aeschylus