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Industry Anxiously Awaits Supreme Court Videogame Verdict

Posted On: 6/7/2011

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court failed to issue a verdict in Brown vs. Electronic Merchants Association on June 6, despite predictions from court-watchers and the industry that a ruling would come down that day.

June 6 happened to be the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. The next opportunity for the high court to rule on the issue will be Thursday, June 9, which, coincidentally, is the last day of the E3 show. The court heard oral arguments on Nov. 2, 2010.

At issue is a 2005 California law that made it illegal to sell or rent videogames depicting violence to consumers under age 18. The legislation was evidently intended to apply to home (consumer) games. But the law's language was broad enough that, if upheld, it could be construed by overzealous local law enforcement officials to apply to coin-operated videogames.

Some legal experts have predicted the Supreme Court will invalidate the law, based on tough questioning by several justices during the oral arguments last fall. | SEE TRANSCRIPT

However, the delay in the verdict's announcement has caused some observers to speculate that the justices may be arguing over what grounds should be used to reject the California law -- either vagueness or First Amendment issues.

Other legal experts said the delay in issuing the verdict has made them less confident that the videogame law will be struck down.

If the court upholds the law, other states could enact similar restrictions, which is the chief concern among game makers. According to a blog in Daily Variety, different states might adopt varying standards and definitions of a "violent game," forcing publishers to release alternative versions of games for different jurisdictions.

The Supreme Court will announce its decision by the end of the month before recessing in July.