ST. LOUIS — A federal judge has ruled that local governments should be able to limit children's access to violent or sexually explicit video games, saying the games are not constitutionally protected forms of speech.
Senior U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh, in a ruling issued April 19, rejected a request by a video game industry group to throw out a St. Louis County ordinance regulating access to arcade and home video games.
County Counselor Patricia Redington said April 22 that the county must now decide whether to ask Limbaugh to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Interactive Digital Software Association.
The ordinance, passed in 2000, would require children under 17 to have parental consent before they can buy violent or sexually explicit video games or play similar arcade games. The council has suspended implementation of the ordinance until July 1.
The video game group called the ruling wrong on the facts and the law.
"The decision is clearly in conflict with virtually every other federal court decision on this and related issues," group President Doug Lowenstein said in a statement. "We're confident that our position will be sustained on appeal."
Limbaugh said he reviewed four different video games and found "no conveyance of ideas, expression, or anything else that could possibly amount to speech. The court finds that video games have more in common with board games and sports than they do with motion pictures."
Limbaugh said the county has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and emotional health of its children and assisting parents as guardians of their children's well-being.
St. Louis County modeled its ordinance after one in Indianapolis. That ordinance has been invalidated by a federal appeals court in Chicago.