Jenner & Block

California Violent Video Game Law Held Unconstitutional by Federal Court

In a victory for the Firm’s video game industry clients, a U.S. District Court entered a preliminary injunction late Wednesday night regarding a new California law that was set to go into effect on January 1, 2006 that would have regulated access by minors to "violent" video games.  

Judge Ronald Whyte, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled that the law did not satisfy the strict scrutiny test for content-based regulations.  He added in his ruling that plaintiffs Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) "have shown they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Act violates the First Amendment, or at least that serious questions are raised."

The law would have restricted the sale or rental to anyone under the age of 18 of computer and video games that are classified as "violent video games" if the depictions of violence in the games are offensive to the community or if the violence depicted is committed in an "especially heinous, cruel, or depraved" manner.  The Court relied on recent rulings in Illinois and Michigan that yielded the same favorable result for the video game industry.

"For the sixth time in five years, Federal courts have now blocked or struck down these state and local laws seeking to regulate the sale of games to minors based on their content, and none have upheld such statutes," said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the ESA, in a written statement released after the decision.

Partners Paul M. Smith, Katherine A. Fallow, and Associate Amy L. Tenney challenged the laws on behalf of the Entertainment Software Association and the VSDA.

Jenner & Block is representing the video game industry in challenging similar laws in Illinois and Michigan.  The courts in Illinois and Michigan recently granted the Firm’s motion for a preliminary injunction.  The Firm has successfully represented the video game industry to defeat similar legislative attempts to censor video games in Washington and Missouri.

To view the court's decision, please click here.