WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday refused to let California clamp down on the sale or rental of violent video games to children, saying governments lack authority to "restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed" despite complaints that the popular and fast-changing technology allows the young to simulate acts of brutality.
On a 7-2 vote, the high court upheld a federal appeals court decision to throw out California's ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento had ruled that the law violated minors' rights under the First Amendment, and the high court agreed.
"No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm," said Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion. "But that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed."
Video game makers and sellers celebrated their victory, saying the decision puts them on the same legal footing as other forms of entertainment. "There now can be no argument whether video games are entitled to the same protection as books, movies, music, and other expressive entertainment," said Bo Andersen, president and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association.
More than 46 million American households have at least one video-game system, with the industry bringing in at least $18 billion in 2010. The video game industry has its own rating labeling system intended to warn parents, with the rating "M" placed on games that are considered to be especially violent.