Judge Declares California Violent Game Bill Unconstitutional, Schwarzenegger Vows Revenge (Updated)

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Update: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office released a statement today saying the governor will appeal the ruling of District Judge Ronald Whyte. Whyte declared a California bill restricting the sale of violent games to minors unconstitutional in a lawsuit brought against the governor by the games industry.

"I signed this important measure to ensure that parents are involved in determining which video games are appropriate for their children. The bill I signed would require that violent video games be clearly labeled and not be sold to children under 18 years old. Many of these games are made for adults and choosing games that are appropriate for kids should be a decision made by their parents," said Schwarzenegger in a prepared statement. "I will vigorously defend this law and appeal it to the next level."

Original Story: A federal district court judge declared the 2005 California bill restricting the sale of violent games to minors unconstitutional today, effectively closing the book on the legislation. Northern California District Judge Ronald Whyte had already passed a preliminary injunction against the bill in late 2005 in response to a complaint filed by the Video Software Dealers association, now defunct, and the Entertainment Software Association.

If not for the injunction, Assembly Bill 1179--introduced by Senator Leland Yee and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in October 2005--would have gone into effect January 1, 2006. The bill aimed to stick retailers with a $1,000 fine if they sold to minors games depicting "serious injury to human beings in a manner that is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel." It also would have created a label separate from the ESRB system to designate which games contained said depictions of violence.

Judge Whyte's ruling lists many factors that contribute to making the bill unconstitutional. He says the bill's definition of violence as listed is too broad. "The definition could literally apply to some classic literature if put in the form of a video game," he writes.

Whyte also says that the evidence presented by those in support of a causal link between video game violence and real world violence--particularly the work of Iowa State University psychology professor Craig Anderson--does not justify extraneous regulations on their sale. He writes:

However, at this point, there has been no showing that violent video games as defined in the Act, in the absence of other violent media, cause injury to children.

In addition, the evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, internet sites or other speech-related exposures. Although some reputable professional individuals and organizations have expressed particular concern about the interactive nature of video games, there is no generally-accepted study that supports that concern.

There has also been no detailed study to differentiate between the effects of violent videos on minors of different ages.

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    • reply
      August 6, 2007 7:00 PM

      Doesn't this seem hypocritical considering that Schwarzenegger made his previous career on making action movies to appeal to 14-year-old boys?

      • reply
        August 6, 2007 7:12 PM

        Not 14 year old boys -- 18 year old men. Commando, Total Recall, True Lies, Conan, and Predator were all movies aimed at young men, not boys.

        The argument here is that society shouldn't allow kids to buy games without their parents knowing about it.

        • reply
          August 6, 2007 7:58 PM

          None of those movies are legally restricted in any way. Not one.

          • reply
            August 6, 2007 8:06 PM

            The fact that these movies are not targeted towards boys still remains.

            Plus, movies theaters enforce the R rating. It doesn't have to be legally restricted. I don't believe the same thing can be said of video games.

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              August 6, 2007 8:11 PM

              The movies were targeted at boys as you put it, and if the movie theaters can be self-regulatory (along with every place that sells movies) than video games can too. To legislate one means you need to legislate them all, otherwise it is down right dumb and hypocritical, and this case EVEN more hypocritical considering the source of the appeal.

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              August 6, 2007 8:12 PM

              What's your definition of "targeted towards boys"? The under-18 demographic isn't the primary consumer of video games, and hasn't been for quite a while.

              You're flat wrong on the second count. Stores can and do card for sales of M-rated games, something that they don't necessarily do for R-rated movies.

              Finally, the distinction between a legal requirement to prevent sale of games vs. an industry agency doing it is entirely the point. The government very specifically doesn't have the right to regulate such things except in very narrow circumstances. This was done deliberately to prevent suppression of "undesirable" speech. Read the posts I linked here for a more detailed address of the broader issue: http://www.shacknews.com/laryn.x?id=14884354

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              August 6, 2007 9:29 PM

              Not targeted, no, but I saw all of those movies around age 12 and LOVED them. Well, not True Lies, that came a bit later perhaps.

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              August 6, 2007 10:29 PM

              All of those movies that I've seen, and others of their ilk, I watched before I was technically of age to do so. Since then I honestly have watched that kind of action movie maybe a couple times.

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            August 7, 2007 12:53 AM

            Which imho should be fixed for both movies and videogames. Arnold should legislate Hollywood too.

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          August 7, 2007 12:56 AM

          I watched all those movies when I was 7-9. I can't believe an adult would want to watch that crap.

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