The Supreme Court announced today that it will review a California law regulating the sale of violently-themed video games to minors. The case is Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants and I have written about it here before. This will be the first major First Amendment case regarding video game speech rights heard by our nation’s highest court. This afternoon, I issued the following press statement about the case and its importance:
“I hope the Supreme Court is taking this case to affirm the free speech rights of game creators and users, and not to overturn ten years of solid, sensible lower court decisions granting video games the same First Amendment protections as books, film, music and other forms of entertainment. Government regulation of game content is unnecessary because parents have been empowered with sophisticated video game parental controls and a highly descriptive ratings system that is widely recognized and easy to use. Lawmakers should focus their efforts on making sure parents are better aware of existing tools and ratings instead of trying to censor game content in such a plainly unconstitutional fashion. Let’s hope the Supreme Court affirms that educational approach and Ninth Circuit’s decision at the same time.”
Several reporters have already asked me if its a bad sign that the Court took the case at all and wondered if this meant that there are 5 votes for overturning the lower court decision. It’s impossible to read the tea leaves on things like this, but I would generally agree that it’s not a good sign. But I just don’t understand how the Supreme Court could uphold a law like this in light of all their recent Internet jurisprudence (CDA, COPA, etc) which held against the government when various “harm to minors” statutes were tested and found to be unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court goes the opposite direction here, it will mean that our “First Amendment jurisprudential Twilight Zone” will become even more confusing and contorted. Let’s hope that’s not the case.