Video Games and the First Amendment

Over at GameTopius, paralegal-in-training Nikhil Baliga (who also has degrees in Political Science and Psychology) serves up a look at First Amendment issues as they relate to games.

While Baliga does a nice job of tracing some of the major case law, the article’s main points could be stated with more clarity. This paragraph, for example, seems to imply that video games are not necessarily constitutionally-protected speech (they are):

What well intentioned, but usually ill informed, video game advocates often assume is that video games are constitutionally protected free speech. While there can be no doubt that video games are speech, the Supreme Court has stated that not all speech is constitutionally protected.

Later, Baliga explains that this is a reference to video games which might be considered legally obscene under the so-called Miller Test. The fact is, however, that the likelihood of that happening in the U.S. market, given the ESRB rating system, console licensing requirements and screening by major retailers, is roughly nil.

While there could be a non-commercial game or import (say, RapeLay) that might – might – meet the Miller obscenity standard, implying that commercial video games are not protected speech is roughly akin to saying that Hollywood movies aren’t necessarily protected speech because there are also kiddie porn films.

Still in all, worth a read.

GP: Readers should note that Baliga is not a lawyer and neither is GP. So, take both opinions with the appropriate grain of salt.

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