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Holy legal hand grenades! Comic book creators say California game law could clobber all media

Photographers Against Censorship Can a California video game law banning the sale of violent games to minors potentially spill over to other media? The comic book world thinks so. 

In a brief filed Friday with the Supreme Court, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund urged the high court to reject the law, saying it "would undermine more First Amendment principles in a single case that any decision in living memory."

In short, the brief argues that video games are the canaries in the censorship mines. If the law is upheld, it could open the way for similar regulation of violent movies, music and other media, according to the brief.

That argument and many others are expected to be filed before Friday night's deadline for submission of "friend-of-the-court" briefs in a case that has riveted more than just those in the $25 billion U.S. video game industry.

"The first amendment is indivisible," said Robert Corn-Revere, an attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine, the law firm representing the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. "If it’s weakened for one medium, it’s weakened for all. If a precedent is established for the censorship of games, it will be used for everybody else. You’ll see a lot of support for our position from different quarters."

Those quarters are expected to be the Movie Picture Assn. of America, the Recording Industry Assn. of America and the several non-profit news organizations, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Radio Television News Assn.

Janet Jackson's 2004 wardrobe malfunction on CBS aside, the comic book industry is likely to be the most simpatico with the predicament now facing video games.

In 1949, 14 states had pending legislation to ban the sale of comic books to minors, the result of popular "moral panic" stirred by "crusaders," according to the brief from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Could the present California law, which never went into effect because of the legal challenges filed against it by the game industry, bleed into movies, music, news and even books?

Michael McConnell, a constitutional law professor at Stanford Law School and a former federal judge, says the danger is real, but remote.

"I think [the Supreme Court justices] are going to take a good hard look at this, be tempted by the common sense of the statute, but leave well enough alone," McConnell said. "Tampering with free speech doctrine carries high costs with unpredictable effects."

But McConnell added that the high court rarely grants a hearing to a case that has been unanimously rejected in lower federal courts unless its Justices have an interest in reviewing, or reversing, the prevailing case law.

"This isn’t something that’s impervious to change," he said.

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Photographers Against Censorship logo. Credit: Ozma via Flickr.


 
Comments () | Archives (6)

Every time a law is passed a crime is created.
It says so at the bottom of every proposed bill summary.
I am tired of our elected representatives creating crime!
California law enforcement has enough real crime to deal with without expending their resources enforcing frivolous new laws.
That is one of the reasons our state and our cities are broke!
Check out the voting record of your representative and find out what nit picking, inane, "feel good" laws he or she has proposed or voted for, and make certain you don't vote for them in the next election!
Don't vote for anyone who doesn't have a cautious aversion to new legislation.
Vote the crime makers out of Sacramento!

I'm guessing the seller and game producers will be taking the heat for the sale of a violent video game to a minor. In short, everyone BUT the very people who should be responsible will be taking the fall, should this new law be enacted: the child buying the game, and the parents of the children.

The law should punish the child for buying the game, and the law should punish the parents. Not the game producers, not the sellers.

People talk about the degenerative effect video games have on children, and they completely ignore the other stronger and more negative influences on children: religion and single-parent households. Where are the laws controlling for that?

you have to create crime, to feed the prison industrial complex. this is why we have 10% of the adult population in prison or on some form of parole, more than any other country.

it's a form of disguised socialism. the idea is to transfer wealth from the real world (the private sector, based on markets) to everyone who gets paid based on law enforcement.

it's not like law enforcement creates wealth.

it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a constitutional change that says for every new law created, some other law has to be revoked.

eventually all the cheap laws will be used up, and then the politicians would have to be rational.

what stupid law would you trade for this stupid one? there is a law on the books that makes it a specific offense (not just fraud) to not pay for your horse rental.

so they could trade the censorship law -- how would you even decide what constitutes violence? the brother's grimm is on a whole 'nother scale of violence than fantasies about shooting up people.

i think the federal judges don't really care at california level because the way laws are really made in california is propositions. the video game companies can just do a proposition and change the actual constitution. that's when it gets interesting.

@ Blithe who asks: "People talk about the degenerative effect video games have on children, and they completely ignore the other stronger and more negative influences on children: religion and single-parent households. Where are the laws controlling for that?"

OK, so you want MORE laws criminalizing:
(a) Single Parent Households. So now it's a Crime to Divorce or Get Pregnant?
(b) Religion, eh? Umm, but isn't Freedom of Religion in our hallowed Constitution?

Already, the MPAA rates movies. Minors are not allowed to attend R-rated movies without an adult, and aren't allowed to attend any NC-17 movies at all. Video games are also rated, as are comic books, but quite frankly, I don't see much point in the industries' ratings if they're just being ignored. This bill stems from the industry's perceived failure at self-policing. It's not censorship. Nobody's asking anyone to stop making violent video games, just like nobody's asked people to stop making R-rated movies.

The thing you're forgetting Val, and this is a big one, is that it's not illegal to let a minor into an R rated movie, the person and the theater will not get fined or receive jail time for it. I just don't think you really understood this article Val and I think it might help if you looked into this more


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