Tuesday, April 27, 2010

California video game case mirrors COPA, to some extent (what about state HTM laws?)

The Supreme Court, in considering a ruling from the Ninth Circuit to overturn a California law that prohibits the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, is bringing back some of the concepts familiar from the COPA trial. That is, whether the content of the games has legitimate social or scientific value with respect to minors. It's the same formulation of the "harmful to minors" concept.

The case is enriched by the economic importance of video games, which has grown in relation to movies (which also have a partially successful rating system), with a typical story in the Norwalk Reflector here.  The video game business has become an increasingly visible portion of movie studio business financially.

The case goes before the Supremes at a time when movie studios are facing criticism because it is so easy for minors to see R-rated movies online or see unrated versions of trailers, often embedded in blogs. That observation could recall some of the questions that came up with COPA.

But another component of the video game case is whether the First Amendment allows exceptions for extreme violence in a manner similar to obscenity. The case is Schwarzenegger vs. Video Software Dealers Association.

There has been little written in recent years about state clones of COPA (such as that in Virginia) which would probably become unconstitutional according to the same rationale as was used for COPA.

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