×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Vidgame ban zapped

Court cites free speech, overturns lower ruling

HOLLYWOOD — A federal appeals court tossed out a St. Louis County, Mo., law banning sales of violent vidgames to minors, ruling games are “analytically indistinguishable” from other kinds of entertainment explicitly protected by the First Amendment.

The decision may have larger implications for other local, state and federal legislative efforts to control sales of violent games to minors. U.S. Rep. Joe Baca (R-Calif.) and U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.) have pushed to regulate vidgame sales, as have Washington state and the city of Indianapolis.

The Interactive Digital Software Assn., the vidgame industry trade group, and several other retailer and trade groups challenged the St. Louis County ordinance as soon as it was passed, but lost an initial round when a federal district judge ruled against its request to throw out the law on constitutional grounds.

District court overruled

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the district court, sending the case back to that court with instructions to issue a ruling “not inconsistent” with its opinion.

“If the First Amendment is versatile enough to ‘shield (the) painting of Jackson Pollock, music of Arnold Schoenberg, or Jabberwocky verse of Lewis Carroll …’ we see no reason why the pictures, graphic design, concept art, sounds, music, stories and narrative present in video games are not entitled to a similar protection,” the court wrote.

The court also dismissed county claims that vidgames’ interactivity makes them different from books, music, movies or live performances.

“The mere fact that they appear in a novel medium is of no legal consequence,” the court said. “Indeed, we find it telling that the county seeks to restrict access to these video games precisely because their content purportedly affects the thought or behavior of those who play them.

Court: Same as movie

“The same could be said of action-packed movies like ‘The Matrix’ or ‘Charlie’s Angels’; any viewer with a videocassette or DVD player could simply skip to and isolate the action sequences,” the court continued. “The fact that modern technology has increased viewer control does not render movies unprotected by the First Amendment, and equivalent player control likewise should not automatically disqualify modern video games that are ‘analytically indistinguishable from … protected media such as motion pictures.’ ”

The St. Louis County case also attracted, among others, friend of the court briefs by the MPAA, the RIAA and other media and entertainment industry groups concerned about the case’s ramifications for their businesses.

More Scene

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. “When I moved to LA, the air was unbreathable. Rivers were catching fire in [...]

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron attends the 44th Annual

    Alfonso Cuarón to LAFCA: 'Thanks to Your Help We Can Break Down Walls'

    Inclusion was the big winner at the L.A. Film Critics Association Awards, which was held Saturday night at the InterContinental in Century City. “This year’s winners are the most diverse in LAFCA’s 43-year history,” announced its president, Claudia Puig, adding that 14 out of their 18 awards were won by women and people of color. [...]

  • Mandatory Credit: Photo by Max Malandrino/REX/Shutterstock

    Hollywood Power Players Assemble to Save Iconic Deli Nate 'n Al

    A group of Hollywood executives and celebrities have banded together with the intent to save Beverly Hills deli and star haunt Nate ‘n Al, a stone’s throw from tourist destination Rodeo Drive. A consortium of investors including music kingpin Irving Azoff and wife Shelli, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Jeff Shell, and Rande Gerber and [...]

  • Charlie Collier, FOX Chief Executive Officer

    'The Passage' Team Talks Diversifying Races, Genders and Ages of Book Characters

    “The Passage” star Saniyya Sidney was unaware that the book version of her character was originally white until her father, a fan of Justin Cronin’s apocalyptic trilogy, informed her during the audition process. “I was like, ‘Oh, she is?'” Sidney told Variety at Thursday’s series premiere in Santa Monica, Calif. “And when I got it, [...]

  • MAYFAIR HOTEL - Ballroom

    The New Space Race Energizes Awards Party Scene

    When planning an elegant A-list dinner for 10 to gala parties for a thousand, event planners have a sophisticated mix of locations to choose from in New York and Los Angeles. Variety looks at new and updated venues that cater to gatherings during Hollywood’s awards season, and throughout the year welcome all kinds of happenings [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content