The State of California passed a law that restricts the rental and sale of violent video games to anyone who is under the age 18. This included anything with the act of killing, cursing, or nudity. They believed these video games were giving kids, killing techniques and teaching them acts of violence. Entertainment Merchants Association, who create and sell video games, then brought suit against California for violating the rights of the First Amendment. Video games are a form of speech, and they are protected under the First Amendment.
Does the State of California, who wants to ban selling violent video games to minors, violate Entertainment Merchants Association’s First Amendment rights?
The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Entertainment Merchants Association.
In Brown et al. v. Entertainment Merchants Ass’n , the Supreme Court held 7-2 that Entertainment Merchants Association’s First Amendment rights to free speech were violated. Video games are protected by the First Amendment. The government has no power to restrict these games because of its messages, ideas, or content. The Court declared that the banning the sale of violent video games to minors was unconstitutional and violated the basic principles of freedom of speech and press since the technology was advancing.
California’s law that bans minors from buying or renting violent video games was struck down as unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The majority first acknowledge that video games are qualified as speech according to the First Amendment protection. Justice Scalia summarizes that books, plays, movies, and video games communicate ideas and those are considered protected through the First Amendment. The majority came to a conclusion that California could not fulfill their fight.
The majority stated that the evidence they received was not convincing. Dr. Craig Anderson and other psychologist have done research on the connection between violent video games and effects on the children exposed and found that the effects were small. They believed the effects are not any different from the effects of being revealed on social media.
Reasoning (Alito Concurrence)
Due to the California act imposing a restriction on the protection of speech, it is invalid unless they can prove it passes the “strict scrutiny.” Chief Justice joins Alito in the writing of a separate concurrence. Although he supported the majority decision, he disagreed with their conclusion that violent video games did not have any negative effects on children. There is a valid reason to think that playing violent video games is a different experience from reading a book or watching TV. A major concern is brought to attention on their differences between sexual content and violent acts.
The government does not have a right to control what children are exposed to, it should be up to their parent or graduation. It The court concluded video games are protected by the First Amendment under the United States Constitution because they provide ideas and communication through literary devices. Video games create a sense of imagination for some people. It gives them the ability to participate in events that take place in the real world that maybe they are not the best at, but when online they are masters. In some games, it has the option of creating a look-a-like character.
Reasoning (Thomas Dissent)
The First Amendment rights used to not be aimed at children. It was argued that children did not have free access to speech. Parents had authority over their children, which meant kids had to check with their parents first before they did something. Now, minor’s rights are protected under the First Amendment. They have the freedom to do or say anything they please. Children learn from what other things around them are doing or saying; therefore, they are going to partake in what the video games are doing.
The District Court or the Court of Appeals never asked California to go into detail about the law concerning minors having the right to violent video games. It is argued that “The Freedom of Speech,” does not include a right to speak to minors without asking the minor’s parent or guardian. However, Thomas disagrees this act is unconstitutional.
Reasoning (Breyer Dissents)
The California law is constitutional under the First Amendment. Neurological studies have shown that violent video games are likely to cause children harm. If kids are not exposed to violent games, they will be less likely to hurt themselves or others. Most video games these days have violent activity in them and an excessive amount of shooting.
The video games can still be purchased by a parent or guardian if they approve of their child participating the game. The First Amendment does not disable the child’s right of speech, but it helps the parents become aware of what their child is learning from the game. It is constitutional for the fear of the child that is at risk of harm.