U.S. Supreme Court Rules First Amendment Protects Video Games
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that states can’t prohibit selling or renting violent video games to minors. The decision was reinforced by the protection of interactive games and the free expression of rights for children under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 against making selling or renting violent video games illegal.
The courts ruled against a California law that tried to prevent the sale of video games to minors that featured killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being. The Supreme Court acknowledged that legitimacy of California’s concern, but that the First Amendment sets limits.
Judge Antonin Scalia delivered the court’s opinion, stating
Reading [Dante's Inferno] is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat, these cultrual and intellectual differences are not constitutional. Disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression.
The court affirmed First Amendment principles, stating that the government can’t limit ideas, messages or content. Exceptions to this rule occur when freedom of speech involve obscenities or words that incite violence, but new restrictions must have a historical basis and can’t be imposed on emerging media. Scalia notes that America has had a history of limiting sexual content, but not violent content.
In opposition to the ruling was Justice Stephen Breyer who said:
What sense does it make to forbid selling to 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting a sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the women, then tortures and kills her?
The court noted, however, that as new technologies are invented, states can’t target them for restriction because of concern on the potential influence on children, and video games don’t warrant any more action than a compelling book would. Justice Samuel Alito stated that even though he found many video games disgusting, disgust isn’t a valid basis for restricting expression.