As expected, a number of industry groups, including the Motion Picture Assn. of America and the actors, directors and writers guilds, have filed a friend-of-the-court brief calling on the Supreme Court to reject a California law that prohibits sales of violent video games to minors.
The orgs also were joined by the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, the Producers Guild of America, the Independent Film and Television Alliance and the National Assn. of Theater Owners.
The orgs argued that if the law were upheld, it would have a “dramatic chilling effect on the motion picture industry,” as laws could be passed preventing the sale of violent movies or TV to minors. Like the movie and TV business, the vidgame biz has a self-regulating labeling system to identify violent content. The orgs said that if the law is held as constitutional, “the government would presumably be empowered to proscribe the distribution or viewership of violence in motion pictures, television and books, as long as the content qualified as sufficiently ‘violent’ to trigger the categorical exclusion” from the First Amendment.
“While parents have an undoubted interest in making informed judgments concerning the suitability of exposing their children to potentially objectionable content, [California has] failed to show that the government’s assistance is necessary to serve that interest,” the organizations said in their brief. “And the fundamental lesson of the motion picture industry is that self-regulation can sufficiently enable parents to exercise their right to make informed judgments concerning movie content.
“The movie rating system has widely been praised for its effectiveness, and society’s long experience with the movie rating system demonstrates that a properly designed voluntary rating system can serve the relevant parental interest without the need for content-based government regulation.”
California’s Attorney General Jerry Brown is defending the law, which was passed in 2004 and imposes fines on retailers who sell violent video games to minors. His office has filed briefs arguing that it is narrowly focused on minors, and does not restrict the sale of games to adults. A district and appellate court each overturned the law.