First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
 
print this   Print

Okla. video-game law violates free speech, federal judge rules

By The Associated Press
09.19.07

OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal judge has permanently enjoined the state from enforcing a law that would ban the sale of violent video games to minors, ruling it is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

In her Sept. 17 decision in Entertainment Merchants Association v. Henry, U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron said there is no support or “substantial evidence” that video games are harmful to minors and that “there is a complete dearth of legislative findings, scientific studies or other rationale to support passage of the act.”

The video-game legislation was passed by the Legislature last year and signed into law by Gov. Brad Henry. It barred retailers from selling video games that include “inappropriate” or “gratuitous” violence to minors.

It was challenged in a lawsuit filed in October by the Entertainment Merchants Association and the Entertainment Software Association. ESA’s members accounted for more than 90% of the $7.4 billion in entertainment software sold in the U.S. in 2006, according to the group’s Web site.

The law was scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 1, 2006, but Cauthron blocked its enforcement shortly after the lawsuit was filed.

Cauthron’s ruling addressed the issue of computer and video games’ interactivity, the ESA said. Cauthron found that “the presence of increased viewer control and interactivity does not remove these games from the release of First Amendment protection.”

The court also ruled the law was underinclusive because a minor prevented from buying a video game with “’inappropriate violence’ may still legally buy or rent the book or movie on which the game was based.”

Oklahoma is the latest state to have its video game law struck down, the ESA said. At least six courts in other states have struck down similar laws, ruling they were unconstitutional and rejecting state claims that violent video games cause aggression.

“We need to move past unconstitutional attempts to circumvent Oklahoma citizens’ rights,” Michael D. Gallagher, president of the ESA, said in a statement. “This bill was clearly unconstitutional and we now need to develop a public/private partnership that meets concerned parents’ needs.”

The law, House Bill 3004, was authored by former Rep. Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, and Senate co-President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City. Neither Morgan nor Coffee returned telephone calls from the Associated Press seeking comment on the court’s action.

After the lawsuit was filed, Morgan accused the industry of challenging state restrictions “without being responsible enough to work with legislators to try to solve the problem.” Industry officials said the games are rated and retailers have committed to enforcing ratings restrictions.

“State officials and policymakers should work together with our industry to educate parents about game ratings and the parental controls available on all new video game consoles,” Gallagher said.


Previous
Okla. law restricting video games blocked
Federal judge agrees that law to prohibit sale of violent games to children infringes free expression. 10.16.06

Related

8th Circuit strikes down limits on kids' access to violent video games

St. Louis County ordinance required children under 17 to have parental consent before they could buy violent or sexually explicit video games or play similar arcade games. 06.04.03

Fla. judge to decide if 'Bully' game can be sold to minors

Court orders review of unreleased title after lawyer files complaint accusing video game of being 'Columbine simulator,' inappropriate for children. 10.13.06

7th Circuit: Ill. video-game law violates free speech
Meanwhile, game industry asks federal judge for help in collecting legal fees that government has been ordered to pay. 11.28.06

Federal judge again blasts La. video-game law
State attorney says 'First Amendment is a mighty thing,' admits statute 'was practically unenforceable as written.' 11.30.06

Federal judge strikes down Calif. violent video-game law
Governor, who signed 2005 measure to prohibit sale of violent games to minors, vows to appeal. 08.07.07

8th Circuit: Minn. went too far in restricting video games
Justices agree with lower court that law barring minors from purchasing violent games violates free speech, but opinion shows they aren't entirely happy about it. 03.18.08

9th Circuit weighs Calif. law on violent video games
Industry groups argue that imposing restrictions on sales to minors could lead to states’ limiting access to other material under guise of protecting children. 10.31.08

9th Circuit strikes down Calif. video-game law
Panel says there less-restrictive ways to protect children from 'unquestionably violent' video games. 02.23.09

Utah governor vetoes bill restricting video-game advertising
Jon Huntsman said measure would have led to stores deciding not to label any video games rather than risk running up against the law. 03.26.09

Lack of scientific evidence short-circuits video-game bans
By Douglas Lee Decision striking down Illinois law leaves no doubt about critical weakness in strategy to restrict minors' access to violent games. 12.13.05

The games censors play
By Paul K. McMasters Hysteria over new 'Bully' game ignores fact that it's hardly violent at all — and that crime stats suggest media violence hasn't translated into real violence. 10.22.06

Rating & labeling entertainment
Violence & media

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.



Last system update: Friday, April 23, 2010 | 16:46:44
 SEARCH  MORE
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
How to contribute
Video/RSS/podcasts
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment
reports

Religious liberty in public schools
First Reports
Supreme Court
Columnists
Experts
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Glossary
Freedom Sings™
Events
First Amendment
Schools

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment
Library

Lesson plans
freedomforum.org
Newseum
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links