Court Hands Broadcasters a Shield

Rules that a California ban on selling or renting violent video games to minors is a violation of the First Amendment

RELATED: Broadcasting's Future Shock

Legislators who have pushed for regulating screen violence, led by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), were dealt a very real blow by the Supreme Court last week. The court ruled in Brown (formerly Schwarzenegger) v. Entertainment Merchants Association that a California ban on selling or renting violent video games to minors is a violation of the First Amendment.

Here are some quotes from the majority opinion that broadcasters can cite the next time the TV violence issue is raised:

“Under our Constitution, ‘esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature…are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.’” (The quote language is from the Playboy case, in which the court found that available blocking technology rendered a content ban overly restrictive.)

“California has [wisely] declined to restrict Saturday morning cartoons, the sale of games rated for young children or the distribution of pictures of guns.”

“[A]s a means of assisting concerned parents [the law] is seriously overinclusive because it abridges the First Amendment rights of young people whose parents [and aunts and uncles] think violent video games are a harmless pastime.”