The Supreme Court took almost eight months to render a decision in a case challenging California's law banning the sale of violent video games to minors. The wait was worth it, and not just for the video-game industry. In striking down the law, the court bolstered anew the protections of the 1st Amendment.
Although seven justices voted to invalidate the law, it was five led by Antonin Scalia who grounded the decision in a compelling opinion that examined new technology through the prism of the 1st Amendment. (Scalia was joined in his opinion by conservative Anthony M. Kennedy and liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — a reminder that free-speech cases often scramble the usual liberal-conservative alliances.)
Scalia dispatched all of the major arguments for the law. A technical but vital issue was whether the court must look at the law with "strict scrutiny," the practice in other free-speech cases. Scalia answered yes, meaning that the law had to serve a compelling state interest and be narrowly tailored to meet that purpose. Scalia found no such interest in the protection of children from imaginary violence. He ridiculed studies relied on by the state to show a link between playing video games and aggression in children. Referring to one expert, Scalia said that "he admits that the same effects have been found when children watch cartoons starring Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner."