In 2005, California enacted a ban on the sale or rental of violent video games (defined as a game that depicts killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being) to minors. The stimulus for the law was the stated belief that violent videogames are likely to make minors become more aggressive and violent. The penalty for retailers who violate the ban? As much as $1,000 per violation.
As you might imagine, the legal challenge started almost immediately – from publishers, distributors and sellers; and today, in a 7–2 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling by an appeals court that held the California law unconstitutional. I believe (although I didn’t go back and check yet) that California now becomes the seventh state to have such a law struck down. Justice Scalia, in summarizing the decision, is reported to have said, “Our cases hold that minors are entitled to a significant degree of First Amendment protection. Government has no free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which they may be exposed"; and in his written opinion for the majority noted, "Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply."
We will try to bring you more details once we analyze the 18-page opinion handed down today, but if you have questions, feel free to call me, Joseph I. ("Joe") Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work.