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Judge Halts Implementation Of CA Violent Game Bill

Judge Halts Implementation Of CA Violent Game Bill

December 22, 2005 | By Simon Carless

December 22, 2005 | By Simon Carless
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According to an ESA statement, in a ruling issued late on December 21, 2005, Judge Ronald Whyte, United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, handed down a preliminary injunction halting the implementation of California’s law, publically backed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, that would restrict video game sales and require the unconstitutional and subjective labeling of video games.

Under the terms of AB1179, which would have come into effect on January 1, 2006, customers purchasing games with the label would be required to show ID; retailers who either did not check for ID or did not show the labels will be liable for a $1,000 fine per infraction.

As a direct result of the suit filed by the ESA and VSDA in October regarding the AB1179 law, Judge Whyte wrote that "games are protected by the First Amendment and that plaintiffs are likely to prevail in their argument that the Act violates the First Amendment." This is the third initially successful ESA court challenge in recent weeks, following similar events in Illinois earlier in December and another preliminary blocking in Michigan in early November.

In addition, according to the ESA, Judge Whyte cited other rulings which found that the research does not establish a causal link between violent video games and violent behavior, does not assess the significance of any link, nor does it compare video games to other forms of media violence to which minors are exposed. He writes, “This court anticipates that [the State] here may face similar problems proving the California legislature made ‘reasonable inferences based on substantial evidence.’”

Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, issued this statement in response: “We are extremely pleased by today’s announcement. We deeply respect the concerns of the Governor and the Legislature that gave rise to the law. For the sixth time in five years, Federal Courts have now blocked or struck down these state and local laws seeking to regulate the sale of games to minors based on their content, and none have upheld such statutes. It is therefore time to look past legislation and litigation in favor of cooperative efforts to accomplish the common goal of ensuring that parents use the tools available to control the games their kids play.

“We believe that between the ESRB ratings, parental education, and now with the announcement that all next generation consoles will have parental controls, there is a wealth of ways that those concerned can ensure that children do not have access to inappropriate games. In sum, we believe a combination of parental choice and parental control is the legal, sensible, and most importantly, effective way to help parents keep inappropriate video games from children, and we dedicate ourselves to working with all parties to accomplish this goal.”

Others involved in the bill, including AB1179 author and sponsor Leland Yee and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the bill into law earlier this year, have yet to comment on this judicial decision.

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