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US court rules against restrictions on violent games

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gamesindustry.biz logo The IDSA is celebrating a ruling by a federal appeals court in the USA which has overturned a Missouri law restricting the sale of violent games to minors, claiming that it is a key victory in its ongoing fight against censorship legislation.

The law, which was adopted by St Lous County in October 2000, made it illegal to sell, rent or make available graphically violent videogames to minors without the consent of a parent. The court ruled that this law is unconstitutional in the USA as videogames are covered by the first amendment protection of free speech.

The decision by the US 8th Circuit Court overturns a decision last year which upheld the law, with a federal judge ruling that video games are not a protected form of speech under the amendment. "This decision is a total and unambiguous affirmation of our position that video games have the same constitutional status as a painting, a film, or a book," commented IDSA president Doug Lowenstein.

The ruling will provide a major boost to the IDSA's attempts to have a similar law overturned in Washington State, where the governor recently signed into law a bill which makes it illegal to sell games depicting violence against police officers to minors. Only last year a federal appeals court invalidated a similar law in Indianapolis.

While acknowledging that if a law is unconstitutional it must be legally challenged - as this is how the law-making process in a constitutional republic works - several industry figures, particulalry in Europe, have privately expressed disquiet over the zeal with which the IDSA is pursuing these court cases - arguing that it would be more constructive to work directly with the lawmaking bodies to ensure free speech and protect the role of parents, while at the same time protecting minors from exposure to unsuitable material.

The IDSA, however, seems committed to vigorously defending against all attempts to limit the sale of any type of game to minors, with Lowenstein saying that he hopes that this latest ruling "will give pause to those who would use the power of the state to regulate speech they find objectionable" and commenting that the court's decision "sends a powerful signal to government at all levels that efforts to regulate consumers’ access to the creative and expressive content found in video games will not be tolerated."

© gamesindustry.biz

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