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California seeks US Supreme Court review of 'violent game ban' [update]


The state of California is asking the United States Supreme Court to review a US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision from February regarding its 2005 "violent video game law," declaring it unconstitutional under the First Amendment. According to GamePolitics. the law would require an additional warning label on games and slap retailers who sell violent games to minors with a $1,000 fine for each offense.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed Assembly Bill 1179 into law, said of today's action, "By prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children under the age of 18 and requiring these games to be clearly labeled, this law would allow parents to make better informed decisions for their kids. I will continue to vigorously defend this law and protect the well-being of California's kids."

Update: Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin has weighed in on California's plea to the Supreme Court. His comments can be found after the break.

Much of the criticism directed at the law has focused on the fact that most retailers already abide by the ESRB's rating system and that its criteria for flagging a game as "violent" -- "games that depict serious injury to human beings in a manner that is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel," according to bill author Senator Leland Yee's office -- was too arbitrary.

The ESA, which sued the State of California over the law, commented on the state's latest action, calling it "a complete waste of the state's time and resources" and "wasteful, misguided and pointless litigation." ESA president and CEO, Michael D. Gallagher, stated, "We are confident that this appeal will meet the same fate as the State's previous failed efforts to regulate what courts around the country have uniformly held to be expression that is fully protected by the First Amendment. California's taxpayers would be better served by empowering parents and supporting the ESRB rating system."

Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association has also issued a statement on today's move by California, reading, "I was disheartened to hear that Governor Schwarzenegger is petitioning the Supreme Court over labeling and sales of video games, especially given the fact that nine similar pieces of legislation have been overturned on First Amendment grounds, costing the respective cities and states much-needed taxpayer funds. Coupled with California's $21B economic crisis and the fact that the Governor is about to lay off teachers en masse, it's shocking to the conscience. This was a frivolous political football back when the state had money to burn. Now it's out-and-out irresponsibly politicized."

It's important to note that the Supreme Court isn't hearing or ruling on the law -- or even reviewing it. The state has simply asked the judiciary body to take a look.

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