Court finds Calif. video game law unconstitutional

By REUTERS

June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 20, 2009 at 5:10 PM EDT

* U.S. appeals court says game labeling unconstitutional

* Law's author urges state to appeal to U.S. Supreme Court


(Recasts first paragraph; adds detail from opinion, comment
from video game companies, analysts, byline)

By Gina Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court ruled
Friday that a California law restricting the sales and
rental of violent video games to minors and imposing labeling
requirements is too restrictive and violates free speech
guarantees.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the
labeling requirement unfairly forces video games to carry "the
state's controversial opinion" about which games are violent.

The unanimous opinion by a three-judge panel could have a
far-reaching impact on efforts by other states to establish
mandatory video game labeling requirements.

The court upheld a lower court finding that California
lawmakers failed to produce evidence that violent video games
cause psychological or neurological harm to children.

"Even if it did, the Act is not narrowly tailored to
prevent that harm and there remain less restrictive means of
forwarding the state's purported interests," the court wrote.

Those alternative measures include the voluntary ratings
system established by the Entertainment Software Rating Board,
educational campaigns and parental controls, the court said.

State Sen. Leland Yee, the author of the legislation, said
he will urge California Attorney General Jerry Brown to appeal
the court's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I've always contended that the ... law the governor signed
was a good one for protecting children from the harm from
playing these ultra-violent video games," Yee told Reuters.
"I've always felt it would end up in the Supreme Court."

Bo Andersen, president and chief executive of the
Entertainment Merchants Association, said the ruling vindicates
his group's position that "ratings education, retailer ratings
enforcement, and control of game play by parents are the
appropriate responses to concerns about video game content."

Andersen and Michael Gallagher, president and CEO of the
Entertainment Software Association, urged the state to abandon
any further appeals of the case.

"This is a clear signal that in California and across the
country, the reckless pursuit of anti-video game legislation
like this is an exercise in wasting taxpayer money, government
time and state resources," Gallagher said in a statement.

The 2005 law, which requires games described as violent to
carry an "18" label, has been contested by video game
publishers, distributors and sellers.

A lower court had barred the law from taking effect in
2006, and later invalidated it. The state appealed that case,
titled Video Software Dealers Association v. Arnold
Schwarzenegger (CV-05-04188), last October.

Entertainment Software Association members include Disney
Interactive Studios, Electronic Arts,
Microsoft Corp, THQ Inc, Sony Computer
Entertainment America, and Take-Two Interactive
Software.
(Reporting by Gina Keating; additional reporting by Jim
Christie in San Francisco; editing by Gerald E. McCormick,
Richard Chang)




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