It’s been more than a year since the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Schwarzenegger vs Entertainment Merchants of America (now Brown vs EMA), but the legal body is now expected to make a ruling next week.
The case is focused on a proposed California law that would restrict the sale of ‘violent’ videogames to anyone under 18 and would require such games to adopt a special label. To get such a law passed, California petitioners would need to show why videogames in particular (and no other media) should be exempt from protection under the First Amendment (freedom of speech).
In addition, the bill has run into definition problems when trying to determine what, exactly, they mean by ‘violent’. The proposed law seeks to restrict games that depict “killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being”. During the case hearings in of last year, Californian petitioners seemed to flounder when confronted with the idea that videogame developers would simply have to label all ‘humans’ in the game as robots or humanoid aliens to circumnavigate the law entirely.
Based on all of the above, and the fact that the US Supreme Court has never met a corporation it didn’t love (videogames, after all, are big business), it seems likely that EMA will come out on top.
Were that to be the case, it would effectively grant videogames First Amendment protection rights.
Image: US Supreme Court seal.