Vid Games Laws Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal appeals court late Tuesday threw out a Missouri county’s ban on the sale of video games to minors saying it violates the U.S. Constitution.

It was a major victory for the Interactive Digital Software Association, which reps vid game makers, who had argued video games should have the same rights to free speech as filmmakers and publishers. “If the first amendment is versatile enough to shield (the) painting of Jackson Pollack, music of Arnold Schoenberg, or Jabberwocky verse of Lewis Carroll, we see no reason why the pictures, graphic design, concept art, sounds, music, stories and narrative present in video games are not entitled to similar protection,” the ruling said in part.

The St. Louis law made it illegal for anyone to knowingly sell, rent or make available a graphically violent video to a minor without parental consent. A federal judge ruled last year that vid games weren’t protected speech. But yesterday’s unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned that decision.

“This decision is a total and unambiguous affirmation of our position that video games have the same constitutional status as a painting, a film, or a book,” said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the IDSA. “The decision sends a powerful signal to government at all levels that efforts to regulate consumers’ access to the creative and expressive content found in video games will not be tolerated.”

The court ruling also made two other important findings. First, it said St. Louis had failed to establish a compelling state interest in such a ban and second, that there was insufficient evidence to prove that violent vid games cause psychological damage.