Judge Blocks California Violent Games Law

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In a 17-page ruling, federal judge Ronald Whyte has issued a permanent order blocking a California law which would have required labels on violent video games and prohibited their sale or rental to minors. The statute was passed in 2005, with strong support from California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, over concerns that violent content in video games would lead to increased violence among youth, spark aggressive behavior, or inflict psychological harm.

Although Judge Whyte noted he was “sympathetic” to legislators’ intentions with the law, he found there was insufficient evidence of a connection between violent games and violence in children. “Neither the legislative findings nor the evidence shows that playing violent video games immediately or necessarily results in real-world violence,” wrote Whyte in his ruling. “In addition, the evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, Internet sites or other speech-related exposures.”

The suit against the game ban was filed in October 2005; by December, Judge Whyte had issued a preliminary injunction preventing the law from being enforced.

Similar laws enacted by other states have been challenged successfully by the Entertainment Software Association, the Video Software Dealers Association, and other trade groups, who argue the content of the games is protected under the First Amendment right to free speech.

In a statement, Governor Schwarzenegger has said he will appeal the decision to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. “Many of these games are made for adults and choosing games that are appropriate for kids should be a decision made by their parents,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “I will vigorously defend this law and appeal it to the next level.”