Amicus Brief Filed in Opposition to California Video Game Law

The Media Coalition announced yesterday that its members have filed an amicus  (“friend of the court”) brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court in opposition to the State of California’s attempt to resurrect its failed 2005 video game law.

As GamePolitics readers will recall, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte ruled in August, 2007 that the California law, proposed by State Sen. Leland Yee (D)* was unconstitutional. At the direction of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), the state promptly filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit.

In filing the brief, the Media Coalition is essentially arguing on behalf of the video game industry plaintiffs in the case. The suit against the California law was originally brought by the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). The VSDA, now known as the Entertainment Merchants Association, represents video game retailers, while the ESA represents video game publishers.

The Media Coalition’s press release explains the purpose of the brief:

The Media Coalition members’ amicus brief in the appeal argues that the state’s claim is contrary to all U.S. Supreme Court and Courts Of Appeal precedent and could lead to a wide array of mainstream books, magazines, movies, videos, recordings, and other material with violent content becoming subject to regulation. 

Additionally, the brief argues that the terms used to define a “violent video game” are unconstitutionally vague and the labeling requirement is unconstitutional compelled speech and a content-based requirement. 

Media Coalition members signing on to the brief include the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Freedom to Read Foundation, National Association of Recording Merchandisers, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Read the amicus brief here (pdf). 

* Yee was an Assemblyman at the time the video game bill was passed and signed into law. He was elected to the California Senate in 2006.

Full Disclosure Dept: The Entertainment Consumers Association is the parent company of GamePolitics.  

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  1. 0
    poopoo says:

    I don’t get, why is the RIAA evil?

    Anyway, it’s pretty sad that the government can regulate minors’ access to pornography, but not to brutality. I didn’t know the 1st Amendment was a vehicle for enforcing Puritanical attitudes.

  2. 0
    GoodRobotUs says:

    Whilst most of the Media industry cannot agree on how things should be done, there are a few facts on which they are all united. The RIAA know that any law like this would be a ‘foot in the door’ for censors. Whilst I don’t agree with a great deal of the RIAA’s practices, they could not realistically NOT oppoise this law. It is, however, interesting to note that the MPAA are somewhat missing from the form complaining about a law being appealed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Anyone wan’t to make any bets on why that might be? 😉

  3. 0
    Aliasalpha says:

    Thompsons pathology seems to be the “Lone Crusader Out To Save The World”, once the mass effect controversy had started, he’d have had company and he doesn’t seem to like performing with another act.

    If paris hilton does something classy, then it’s the last sign of the apocalypse

  4. 0
    Father Time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    you know come to think of it is does seem more like the apocolypse around here the signs have all been there.

    Jack Thompson DOESN’T jump on the Mass Effect band wagon.
    People who usually hate each other have come together to support Net Neutrality
    The RIAA is actually on our side.

    Anyone else think it may be a good idea to be on the lookout for four horsemen.

  5. 0
    GRIZZAM 512 says:

    Is it the Rapture?The revolution of game defense?Or is it old Arnie wasting the time and money of the California courts and taxpyers?Probably the third.

  6. 0
    Hammith says:

    I agree seeing RIAA on anything that makes sense is a slightly strange set of events, but thankfully it’s for a good thing. Alliteration aside, I think this could be a good sign for things to come and a warning for other lawmakers that look to do something against video games. Mess with the little guy, and his large group of large friends might mess with you.

    Hopefully, this will encourage more organizations to realize that while this may start with video games, it could also head their way as well.

  7. 0
    gs2005 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Father Time

    The RIAA campaign against P2P has been a PR disaster for them. However, even before this happened the RIAA was not exactly interested in being hip with consumers…

  8. 0
    Father Time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

    Bull! If the RIAA still sues people for ungodly amounts of money over music downlaods then they still sue people for ungodly amounts over music downloads. This changes nothing. Sure we may be working together to achieve a common goal (Strength in numbers) but still this does not excuse the RIAA.

    This is good news over all though.

  9. 0
    JustChris says:


    “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

    I would like to throw in this quote:

    “The complexity of our modern civilization is subject to diminishing returns. Complex systems collapse when they have no way to get simpler other than collapse.”

  10. 0
    gs2005 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I can’t wait to see how fast Schwarzenegger and Yee will talk shit after this attempt to revive this unconstitutional stillborn “law” eventually gets shot down.

    For any members of the video game industry, it would be prodigal to give Yee any lobbying money at all as he has basically declare himself an enemy over this. Yee’s behavior over this is an opprobrium to the state of California.

  11. 0
    TJLK ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    This something to watch closely.

    Lawrence Walters presented this quote at his GDC presentation. I really like it a lot.

    “Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” – Justice Potter Stewart

  12. 0
    Calviin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Why do I have to be on the same side of an argument as the RIAA. This is more confusing than when EA stood up for Mass Effect. The enemy of my enemy is my friend?

  13. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    IllegallyMindedJohn (interesting ID),
    Technically, no.

    But the Library of Congress, especially the National Library Service, has been putting some content labels in descriptions for audiobooks that they loan out.

    While I have a wide reading range, sometimes, and I freely admit this, I DO look for books labeled “Explict Descriptions of Sex”.

    What? I’m an adult.

    Do I think there should be a ratings system for reading material (books, newspapers, magazines, etc), sometimes I DO think so. A voluntary one like the ESRB or MPAA, but still one that Parents can look at and make their own decisions if they want to let their child read a particular book or not. On occasion, a Parent might want to give their child a more advanced book, and while searching books they aren’t familiar with, at least a set of content descriptors would be helpful.

    It would also help me track down the really perverse books to read/listern to… uh, did I say that out loud? 😉

    I think some people, though, are afraid to go that route because of some of the outright blunt descriptors that would appear on some very well loved text. Like religious text for example. After all, how many would want their religious text labeled “Adult Only”. And how much of an uproar would there be if one religion’s text were described “negatively” while another was given the “soft touch”?

    And even outside of religious text. Some excellent written text would, or could, be given some rather nasty descriptors.

    Remember, the individual making such decisions has their own beliefs and even the general public could influence what is or is not described.

    NW2K Software

  14. 0
    Vinzent says:

    Hey guys, the ESA made a bundle off of these countersuits! You think we can get in to a bit of that taxdollar pie?

    I’m pretty sure that money is the main motivation for some of these groups to get in on the fight. Especially the RIAA.

  15. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Even if books were rated most religious martial would get a pass, so would documentaries and a few other genres.

    I think we could rated all mediums and keep adult/mature media out of the hands of minors but…its like ending poverty and other good intention plans, humans will cock it up they always do.

    MPAA made X it was baned changed to NC17 it was snubed, ESRB made AO its snubbed and baned by the industry, the BBFC,ect bans stuff by inaction or snubbing it.

    only a sane society can bind media to the sale of minors and make it work without snubbing sanity.

  16. 0
    Snipehunter says:

    I agree with Belgarion89, there. Thought their motivation is likely protecting their won assets, it seems just as likely to me that they have begun to realize that traditional (old) media is dying and that, sooner or later, their business will be replaced by video games and other new media experiences.

    Since all of the various so called new media, such as video games or the “web 2.0 convergence,” are fusions of multiple old media content types, old media companies have a vested interest in keeping them alive and unregulated – they’re simply ensuring their safe harbors are still safe for when the time comes that they have no choice but to abandon their traditional business model.

  17. 0
    Doctor Proctor ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “I’m thinking their motivation is still towards their bottom line. If they win this case, they get to put more music into video games, and I’m assuming (correct me if I’m wrong here) they get some cut of the sales their music goes into.”

    Does it really matter though? While they may be protecting their own interests, they’re a *very* powerful group, and they’re part of the “old” media that’s more accepted.

    I think that’s the most positive thing out of this, is that we’re finally getting the “old” media behind us…cuz they’re right, if this passes it’s not as much of a stretch to try and say that violent graphic novels should be banned or subject to fines for sales.

  18. 0
    DeusPayne ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I feel it necessary to post this again:

    “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” – Someone smarter than you, and me, and pretty much any living person today

  19. 0
    Aliasalpha says:

    Oh come now, the RIAA aren’t ALL bad, just 99.999997% bad…

    Like most if not all of the non-game related opponents, it would be forward thinking, enlightened self interest that is motivating them. Again strange to see the RIAA involved in anything forward thinking…

  20. 0
    Falcon4196 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Its amazing there is court case with RIAA involved and I wasn’t immediately filled with a sense of disgust. Seriously though I is nice to see that all of those different media groups understand that even this small step toward censorship could have repercussions for them down the line. It only takes one little piece of precedence for these sort of things to begin to snowball on you.

  21. 0
    beacon80 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As a resident of California, I’d like to ask… couldn’t we have used the tax money this is going to cost us to fix roads, or build a library, or renovate a school or something?

  22. 0
    Belgarion89 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m thinking their motivation is still towards their bottom line. If they win this case, they get to put more music into video games, and I’m assuming (correct me if I’m wrong here) they get some cut of the sales their music goes into.

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