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Supreme Court to Hear Case on Sale of Mature Games

by Brian Leahy, Apr 26, 2010 7:00pm PDT

In the Supreme Court's next term, which begins in October, the highest court will hear a case on the sale of mature video games to minors. The case is based upon a decision made by the California, which declared a law signed by Governor Schwarzenegger to be unconstitutional.

The law called for strict regulations preventing the sale or rental of mature video games to minors with fines assessed to retailers that were caught selling/renting to minors.

Opponents of the law argued that video games are already self-regulated by the ESRB, assigning ratings to each game, along with First Amendment Free Speech protections.

Now that the Supreme Court is hearing the case, the door has been opened for federally mandated regulation for the entire country. Analysts and experts do not believe this will be the case.

"As the Court recognized last week in the US v. Stevens case, the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few 'historic and traditional categories' that are 'well-defined and narrowly limited'," said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association. "We are hopeful that the Court will reject California's invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment."

It is important to note that minors would still be legally allowed to play mature games, but not purchase them directly. Many retailers already require a parent or guardian to be present when selling an M-rated game to a minor.

CNBC's Chris Morris notes that "M-rated titles do not make up the majority of games on the market, but they tend to be the industry's biggest hits." We'll keep you updated with more developments on this story.




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