The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a proposed California law that would have banned the sale of violent video games to minors.
In a 7-2 ruling, both liberal and conservative justices agreed that the video games qualify for First Amendment protections.
“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas-and even social messages-through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world),” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the court’s majority opinion (PDF).
“That suffices to confer First Amendment protection. Under our Constitution, ‘esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature… are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority,’” he added.
Justice Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer disagreed with the court’s majority.
“The practices and beliefs of the founding generation establish that ‘the freedom of speech,’ as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors’ parents or guardians,” Thomas wrote. ” I would hold that the law at issue is not facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and reverse and remand for further proceedings.”
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