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Age Limit for Violent Video Games Struck Down

June 04, 2003|From Bloomberg News

A federal appeals court Tuesday threw out a Missouri county's ban on the sale of violent video games to minors, siding with the video game industry by ruling that the law violates the U.S. Constitution.

The Interactive Digital Software Assn., which represents video game companies including Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. and Electronic Arts Inc., argued that the video game industry has the same rights to free speech as filmmakers and publishers.

"There is no justification for disqualifying video games as speech simply because they are constructed to be interactive," wrote Judge Morris Sheppard Arnold for the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

The St. Louis County law made it illegal for anyone to knowingly sell, rent or make available graphically violent video games to minors without the consent of a parent. A federal judge last year upheld the law, ruling that video games aren't a protected form of speech under the 1st Amendment.

A call to St. Louis County Executive George R. Westfall wasn't immediately returned.

The St. Louis County Council, which adopted the law in October 2000, had refrained from implementing it until the legal challenges were resolved. The ordinance was based on a similar law passed in Indianapolis, which a federal appeals court in Chicago last year invalidated.

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court also found that St. Louis had failed to establish that there is a compelling state interest in regulating the sale of games to minors on behalf of parents, and that there was insufficient evidence to prove that violent video games cause psychological harm.

Washington state passed a similar law last month targeting games that depict violence against police officers. The Interactive Digital Software Assn. has said it intends to challenge that law as unconstitutional.

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