NCAC Sends Letter to Massachusetts DOT Over Removal of Games from Mass Turnpike Rest Stops

January 31, 2013 -

Earlier this month we reported that the Massechusetts Department of Transportation pulled arcade shooting games from Mass Turnpike rest stops after a single complaint from a Newtown, Connecticut family including such titles as Time Crisis and Beach Head 2000.

On January 29, the National Coalition Against Censorship wrote a letter to the man who made the decision to remove those games: Richard Davey, Secretary and CEO of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The NCAC defended the games as constitutionally protected creative expression and that the removal of those games opens the door to future acts of censorship.

Citing the 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, the group points out that state regulation of violent video games is unconstitutional and that video games are entitled to the protection of free speech just like literature and other creative mediums. You can read entire letter below:

Dear Mr. Davey,

We are writing to express our concern over reports that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (“the Department”) recently ordered the removal of a number arcade games from rest areas along the Massachusetts Turnpike in response to a complaint from an individual passing through a rest area in Charlton, Massachusetts. As we understand it, the motorist complained that a game in which the player used a toy gun was “inappropriate.”

Video games are protected speech under the First Amendment and, as such, cannot be regulated or restricted by state officials in response to concerns about their message or content. In its landmark 2011 ruling, Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, the Supreme Court held that state regulation of violent video games is unconstitutional and that video games “are as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature,” Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass’n (2011). The Court struck down a California state law restricting the sale of certain videogames depicting violence to minors. The Department’s action in removing certain games because some people object to their message or content is equally constitutionally problematic.

There is no legitimate state interest that could be asserted to justify removing specific games to appease the sensibilities of certain motorists. Moreover, by caving to the demands of one passer-by, the Department will inevitably invite others to register complaints about material they deem inappropriate. It is not a stretch to imagine someone demanding a ban on certain DVDs, magazines, or books. Perhaps other travelers will think it is inappropriate to broadcast news about war or crime, or other televised content. It is no more acceptable for the Department to remove certain kinds of video games than it would be to selectively remove other materials in rest stops and concessions because some motorists find something in them objectionable.

Video games, like other forms of media and entertainment, do not appeal to every individual. What some may feel is perfectly fine may not be right for all. Those who do not wish to play video games at rest-stops do not have to, just as those who do not wish to read a particular book or magazine do not have to. However, they do not have the right to keep others from playing and enjoying a perfectly legal form of casual entertainment.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

Joan E. Bertin

Source: Comic Book Legal Defense Fund


Comments

Re: NCAC Sends Letter to Massachusetts DOT Over Removal of ...

There's a difference between removing it from a rest stop because it might upset someone, and banning it from being in a public space.  

Re: NCAC Sends Letter to Massachusetts DOT Over Removal of ...

While I appreciate the NCAC's concerns, those were state-run rest stops - not private.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: NCAC Sends Letter to Massachusetts DOT Over Removal of ...

Isn't that kinda the point, or at minimal a factor?

Private companies have fare more latitude when it comes to censorship and, at worst, might just get PR dings.. but in theory at least a state run facility has 1st amendment implications.

Re: NCAC Sends Letter to Massachusetts DOT Over Removal of ...

Not when the state decides to remove something from its own facilities.  That's completely within its rights.  Its reasons may be screwy, its decision could have negative repercussions but it's not a violation of free speech.

 

Andrew Eisen

 
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