California 2005 Video Game Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Read the ruling here

A federal district court judge has ruled California's 2005 video game law unconstitutional, ending a legal fight which lasted nearly two years.

The bill, championed by then-Assembly Speaker Leland Yee (D) was signed into law by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (left) on October 7th, 2005. The video game industry filed suit to block the law 10 days later.

Judge Ronald Whyte issued a preliminary injunction on December 22nd, blocking the California law from its planned effective date of January 1st, 2006. Since then, both sides have been waiting for Judge Whyte's final ruling. Today it has come.

A lot has happened since the suit was filed. The main plaintiff, the Video Software Dealers Association, no longer exists. The organization merged with the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association last year and is now known as the Entertainment Merchants Association, representing video game retailers and renters.

Doug Lowenstein, of course, is no longer with the video game publishers' association, the Entertainment Software Association, another plaintiff in the case. Mike Gallagher now heads the ESA. And Leland Yee moved from the California Assembly to the State Senate in November, 2006.

From Judge Whyte's ruling:
 

The evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, internet sites or other speech-related exposures.

Although some reputable professional individuals and organizations have expressed particular concern about the interactive nature of video games, there is no generally-accepted study that supports that concern. There has also been no detailed study to differentiate between the effects of violent videos on minors of different ages.

The court, although sympathetic to what the legislature sought to do by the Act, finds that the evidence does not establish the required nexus between the legislative concerns about the well-being of minors and the restrictions on speech required by the Act.

 

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