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In the wake of this week’s announcement by the United States Supreme Court that it will review the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeal decision invalidating California’s violent video game censorship law, video game trade organizations have issued statements supporting the lower court’s ruling.

The Entertainment Software Association, which represents major game publishers and which was one of the plaintiffs in the original suit, issued the following statement:

Courts throughout the country have ruled consistently that content-based regulation of computer and video games is unconstitutional. Research shows that the public agrees, video games should be provided the same protections as books, movies and music.

As the Court recognized last week in the US v. Stevens case, the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few ‘historic and traditional categories’ that are ‘well-defined and narrowly limited.’ We are hopeful that the Court will reject California’s invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment.

A poll recently conducted by KRC Research found that 78 percent believe video games should be afforded First Amendment protection. We look forward to presenting our arguments in the Supreme Court of the United States and vigorously defending the works of our industry’s creators, storytellers and innovators.

The Entertainment Merchants Association, which represents retailers of video games and which was also a plaintiff in the original case, issued the following statement:

EMA obviously would have preferred that the Supreme Court decline review of the lower court decision finding the California video game restriction law to be unconstitutional. We are confident, however, that when the Supreme Court conducts its review, it will conclude that the lower court correctly analyzed the law and reached the appropriate conclusion.

The International Game Developers Association, which represents game developers, issued the following statement:

The International Game Developer’s Association (IGDA) asserts that video games are a form of expression whether they’re intended for entertainment, simulation or training. Like books, film, and television, games are capable of conveying many messages and many points of view.

Limiting forms of expression in video games limits the expression of game creators, which violates their constitutional rights to free speech in the United States and abroad as specified by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the United Nations.

In the specific case of the state of California’s Schwarzenegger v. Video Software Dealers Association, 08-1448, which is coming before the US Supreme Court this fall, the IGDA’s position is that limiting the sale of video games based on violence is oppressive censorship, singling out one form of expression based only on popular myth and biased research.

The IGDA is committed to the safety of children and supports fair and objective research on the effects of video games on the psychology of children and adults alike, as exemplified by the $1.5 million federally funded Harvard Medical study headed by Drs. Kutner & Olsen and provided to the public in Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do.  The IGDA stands behind informing parents about their media decisions and allowing them, rather than governmental bodies, to decide for their children.

Violence is conveyed in explicit ways on television, in print media, via the Internet, and in film. All of these platforms constitute speech protected by the first amendment of the United States constitution. The IGDA condemns the censorship of expressive media in all forms, but especially when marketed for political gain by legislators.

While video games are commonly associated with violence in the non-gaming public, in reality only a minority of video games include graphic violence, and the industry has taken a leading role in providing information and awareness to consumers about the level of violence in any individual game. The IGDA is fully committed to disclosure and an informed public, and supports the video game rating system, reviews of games prior to their release, and content warnings on packaging.

“Video games are at the heart of technical and artistic innovation,” said IGDA Chair Gordon Bellamy.  “Singling out games from other media is not only unconstitutional, according to courts throughout the country, but it also stigmatizes a leading industry in our economy that’s embraced by millions in all walks of life.”

Michael Atkinson, the attorney general for South Australia and a primary proponent of video game censorship in Australia, resigned from office in March.  Mr. Atkinson had long opposed the introduction of an adults-only rating for video games in Australia, effectively banning all games that were not considered suitable for children from sell to anyone, even adults.

For many years, Mr. Atkinson’s objections have been successful in stopping the implementation of an adults-only rating for video games because the proposal requires the unanimous approval of all state and federal attorneys general.  He has consistently taken that position that even though the absence of an adults-only classification has effectively bans violent games even for adults, this was necessary to restrict access by children.

In March, Venezuela enacted a law banning violent video games.  The law makes it a crime, not just a civil penalty, to import, produce, distribute, or sell violent video games.  The law goes beyond just games, and includes banning the sale of all violent toys.

The law also provides for a government program of “crime prevention” in schools, and through public media, warning of the “dangers” of video games.

Switzerland has enacted a ban on violent video games that will go into effect in the near future.  The ban will be a complete one, banning the sale of all violent video games to everyone, not just minors.

The law has been passed by both houses of the Swiss parliament, the National Council, and now awaits final drafting by the federal cabinet, which will provide the exact definition of what is “violent”.  The motions, as passed, are currently broad in scope, prohibiting all games that “promote as a means of advancement or achievements acts of violence against human or creatures resembling humans”.  The National Council has also passed a separate provision banning the sale of violent video games to minors.

The United States Supreme Court announced today that it will hear the appeal of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down a California law that banned the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.

The California law on Violent Video Games would have banned the sale or rental of “violent” video games to minors under the age of 18.  However, the law never went into effect.  Shortly after the law was enacted, the Federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the statute as unconstitutional by holding it violated the free speech provisions of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

In Video Software Dealers Association v. Schwarzenegger, the 9th Circuit Court held that the content of video games is protected speech under the First Amendment, with any attempted regulation requiring strict scrutiny.  The Court noted that absent a demonstrated compelling governmental interest, the state cannot prohibit or regulate such speech.  The Court then went on to conclude that the state of California had failed to demonstrate any compelling interest in regulating speech in video games because there was no support in the record showing any causal link between “violent” video game content and “violent” behavior by those who play such games.

The state of California sought review of the 9th Circuit’s decision by writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court, which writ was granted today, clearing the way for the high court to review the case.