Posted on August 22, 2007, Shawn Sines Video Game Laws Consistently Found Unconstitutional
With all the uproar about laws being passed to curtail video game violence and the sale of such games to minors, the track record of those laws has been consistent. To date, all them have been found to be unconstitutional. The New York Times has an article which examines cases over the years as well as the video game legislation recently passed in New York.
â€œItâ€™s more than a trend,â€ said Ronald Collins, a scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington. â€œIt seems the cases are moving uniformly down the same track, and that is that such laws are unconstitutional. Such uniformity in declaring a category of laws unconstitutional is very rare.â€
â€œVideo games are a new medium, and while people are used to scary stuff in the movies, they arenâ€™t as used to having scary stuff in interactive media, so there is political value in passing these laws even if they are ultimately rejected by the courts,â€ said Paul M. Smith, a partner in the Jenner & Block law firm, which represents the game industry. â€œI think itâ€™s fair to say that a lot of people who passed these laws knew they were unconstitutional, and they did it anyway.â€
Thus far cities and states have not been able to translate laws governing pornography to rules regulating violent media. The reason Governor Spitzerâ€™s New York bill passed in June by the Assembly might hold up in court is because it makes it felony in New York to sell or rent any game that includes both pornographic images and egregious violence to a child, but games that contain violence but no sexual situations couldn’t be regulated.
â€œIf the governor were to be honest, he would have to say that this provision does not change anything in terms of the current state of the law and does nothing to address video game violence,â€ said State Sen. Andrew J. Lanza, Republican of Staten Island, one of the billâ€™s sponsors and a proponent of a separate measure to make ratings on video games mandatory. â€œThey want to be able to say they did something about video game violence, and I think itâ€™s a little disinengenuous to say you did something that you didnâ€™t do.â€