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US to review California's violent game law

Case could set precedent for rest of country.

The United States Supreme Court has announced it will re-examine the California state law barring minors from purchasing or renting violent videogames.

The law, signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, has already been struck down by two lower federal courts. They found insufficient evidence that playing violent games caused harm to minors.

But the Supreme Court will have the final say on the matter in its upcoming session, starting this October. A ruling is expected to set a legal precedent for the entire country.

The issue is whether violent videogames are covered by the US Constitution's broad first amendment protections for freedom of speech, or whether they should be subject to a legal exception similar to the one covering obscene material.

"As the Court recognised last week in the US v. Stevens case [which upheld protections for depictions of animal cruelty], the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few 'historic and traditional categories' that are 'well-defined and narrowly limited,'" Entertainment Software Association boss Mike Gallagher wrote in a statement responding to the news.

"We are hopeful that the Court will reject California's invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment."

This will be the first time the high court has heard a case over a law restricting sales of violent videogames. Lower federal courts have struck down similar laws in six other states, as well as local ordinances in cities including St. Louis and Indianapolis, on first amendment grounds.

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About the Author

Kyle Orland