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Issue Date: Vol. 50, No. 5, May 2010, Posted On: 4/30/2010

U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Videogame Content Case

Marcus Webb
U.S. Supreme Court, videogame, video game, video game violence, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leland Yee

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court announced on April 26 that it would hear the case of Schwarzenegger vs. Video Software Dealers Association. At stake is California's regulation of videogame content and, by implication, similar laws nationwide.

The California law, which was passed but never enforced, is intended to ban youths' access to videogames deemed "violent" or "offensive" by prevailing community standards. The measure was sponsored by state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), was approved by the General Assembly in October 2005 and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It was immediately blocked by a district court. Lower level courts quickly declared the law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds, and in February 2009 the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled the same. Schwarzenegger then filed for Supreme Court reconsideration.

Bans on so-called "violent" games have been rejected on nearly identical grounds in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois, as well as in St. Louis and Indianapolis. But they are popular among voters, so state legislatures continue to pass them.

VSDA was formed in 1981, under the auspices of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, to help video retail stores oppose federal legislation that would have changed first-sale doctrine. VDSA merged with the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association in 2006 to form the new Entertainment Merchants Association, which represents the $32 billion home entertainment industry.

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