I disapprove of what you play, but I will defend your right to play it

July 5, 2011

Recently, in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass’n (2011 WL 2518809), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld decisions striking down a law prohibiting the sale or rental of a video game to a minor “that has been labeled as a violent video game”. You can read the statute on Westlaw by putting this in Find by Citation: CA CIVIL § 1746.1

Violent video games have been a hot topic for a long time now. As a kid, Mario was never decapitating Luigi or deflowering the Princess, but I do remember in my middle school years a lot of my friends were not allowed to play Mortal Kombat. I am not going to lie, not only were my brother and I allowed to play Mortal Kombat, we were even allowed to use the blood code (If I remember right I think it was ABA CABB on the old Sega). This allowed you to pull your opponents head off with his or her spine still attached. When you struck your opponent you could see the blood and you could even send them to land in a pit of spikes if you ended the match delivering a violent upper cut. While we were probably on a 32 bit system at the time, it really was the first “gory” video game I remember playing. This is of course, mild compared to the current games. As technology gets better and we all become even more desensitized, the games are going to get even more realistic and I am sure more violent and controversial.

California is not the only state that has attempted to block the sale of these games to minors and they probably will not be the last. According to CNET News:

“California is one of a string of states that enacted similar laws restricting minors’ rights to buy violent video games–legislation that has been repeatedly rejected by lower courts. Laws in Illinois and Michigan were blocked by federal judges on First Amendment grounds in 2005.” The Illinois statute (720 ILCS 5/12A-15) was interpreted as violating the First Amendment by Entertainment Software Ass’n v. Blagojevich, 404 F.Supp.2d 1051 (N.D.Ill.2005).

To find the laws mentioned here as well as others try this search:

In Westlaw use the LEGIS-OLD database to see session laws from previous legislative sessions in any state. You will get 22 results with this search. (LEGIS-ALL covers session laws from the current legislative sessions).

VIOLEN! INDECENT! LEWD OBSCEN! /20 VIDEO-GAME GAME /P CHILD! MINOR

To run the search in WestlawNext, select Proposed & Enacted Legislation from the homepage under All Content.

Try this search in the BILLTRK database to see which states currently have bills on this issue:

VIOLEN! INDECENT! LEWD OBSCEN! /20 VIDEO-GAME GAME /P CHILD! MINOR

If you are looking for some good law review articles on the topic, you will not find yourself in short supply. Try this search in the JLR or LAWREV-PRO database.

VIOLEN! INDECENT! LEWD OBSCEN! /10 VIDEO-GAME /P SELL! SALE /P CHILD! MINOR & DA(LAST 10 YEARS)