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California Court Rules Against Restrictions on Violent Video Game Access by Children

A U.S. appeals court ruled in February, 2009 that a California law restricting sales and rental of violent video games to minors and imposing labeling requirements is too restrictive and violates free-speech guarantees.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the labeling requirement unfairly forces video games to carry "the state's controversial opinion" about which games are violent.

The unanimous opinion by a three-judge panel could have a far-reaching impact on efforts by other states to establish mandatory video game labeling requirements.

The court upheld a lower court finding that California lawmakers failed to produce evidence that violent video games cause psychological or neurological harm to children.

"Even if it did, the Act is not narrowly tailored to prevent that harm and there remain less restrictive means of forwarding the state's purported interests," the court wrote.

Those alternative measures include the voluntary ratings system established by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, educational campaigns, and parental controls, the court said.

Bo Andersen, president and chief executive of the Entertainment Merchants Association, said the ruling vindicates his group's position that "ratings education, retailer ratings enforcement, and control of game play by parents are the appropriate responses to concerns about video game content."

Andersen and Michael Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, urged the state to abandon any further appeals of the case.


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