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California Judge Blocks Unconstitutional Video Game Law

ESA Issues Statement (December 23, 2005)

In a ruling issued late on December 21, 2005, Judge Ronald Whyte, United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, handed down a preliminary injunction halting the implementation of California's law that would restrict video game sales and require the unconstitutional and subjective labeling of video games.

In a decision that drew upon the judicial rulings of cases where similar legislation had been deemed unconstitutional, Judge Whyte wrote that "games are protected by the First Amendment and that plaintiffs are likely to prevail in their argument that the Act violates the First Amendment."

Further, regarding research purporting to show a link between video games and behavior, Judge Whyte cited other rulings which found that the research does not establish a causal link between violent video games and violent behavior, does not assess the significance of any link, nor does it compare video games to other forms of media violence to which minors are exposed. He writes, "This court anticipates that (the State) here may face similar problems proving the California legislature made 'reasonable inferences based on substantial evidence.'"

Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, the trade association representing U.S. computer and video game publishers, issued this statement in response:

"We are extremely pleased by today's announcement. We deeply respect the concerns of the Governor and the Legislature that gave rise to the law. For the sixth time in five years, Federal Courts have now blocked or struck down these state and local laws seeking to regulate the sale of games to minors based on their content, and none have upheld such statutes. It is therefore time to look past legislation and litigation in favor of cooperative efforts to accomplish the common goal of ensuring that parents use the tools available to control the games their kids play.

"We believe that between the ESRB ratings, parental education, and now with the announcement that all next generation consoles will have parental controls, there is a wealth of ways that those concerned can ensure that children do not have access to inappropriate games. In sum, we believe a combination of parental choice and parental control is the legal, sensible, and most importantly, effective way to help parents keep inappropriate video games from children, and we dedicate ourselves to working with all parties to accomplish this goal."

The ESA is the U.S. association dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of the companies publishing interactive games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers, and the Internet. ESA members collectively account for more than 90 percent of the $7.3 billion in entertainment software sales in the U.S. in 2004, and billions more in export sales of American-made entertainment software. The ESA offers services to interactive entertainment software publishers including a global anti-piracy program, owning the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show, business and consumer research, government relations and First Amendment and intellectual property protection efforts. For more information, please visit

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Related Keywords:Judge Ronald Whyte, restrict video game sales, subjective labeling of video games


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