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Issue Date: Vol. 50, No. 11, November 2010, Posted On: 11/3/2010

U.S. Supreme Court Hears 'Violent' Videogame Case

Marcus Webb
Amusement and Music Operators Association, amicus curae, California Assembly Bill 1179, AB 1197, chwarzenegger vs. Entertainment Merchants Association & Entertainment Software Association, video game violence, violent video games, violent video game ban, Leland Yee, First Amendment rights, arcade video game, coin-op video game

WASHINGTON -- On Nov. 2, as Americans voted in midterm elections, the U.S. Supreme Court heard lively arguments in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association.

The case revolves around Calif. AB 1179, a law passed in 2005 that would criminalize the act of selling or renting so-called "violent" videogames to minors.

"A majority of justices appeared to have major reservations about California's law" based on First Amendment issues, said a report in the Washington Post.

Arguing in favor of AB 1179 before the Supreme Court was California deputy attorney general Zack Morazzini. He told the justices that studies have shown videogames have more impact on children than other media due to their interactive nature.

Justice Antonin Scalia said AB 1179 amounted to establishing "the California Office of Censorship." Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg wondered if rap music, comicbooks and movies might be the state's next target.

Yet Chief Justice John Roberts said the government had a duty to "protect children" from ultra-violent images.

AB 1179 was apparently intended to apply chiefly to home videogames. But its language is broad enough, observers have said, that zealous law enforcement officers could apply it to coin-operated videogames as well. Earlier this year the Amusement and Music Operators Association added its name to a "friend of the court" brief against AB 1179, filed with the Supreme Court. Also filing briefs in opposition were 10 state attorneys general, numerous free speech organizations, plus associations that represent various media industries and the computer industry.

The high court is expected to issue its verdict by mid-2011.

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