California has agreed to reimburse the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) $950,000 for legal fees incurred overturning the state’s law regulating sales of video games to children. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision that the California law violated the First Amendment.
“California’s effort to regulate violent video games is the latest episode in a long series of failed attempts to censor violent entertainment for minors,” the ruling said. “Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply.” The court also stated, “A legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test.”
The ESA, the trade association representing U.S. computer and video game publishers. has already received reimbursements from the two California lower court rulings, making a total of $1,327,000 the state has paid to the trade organization. A portion of the money is being used to develop a new after-school educational program for underserved communities in Oakland and Sacramento. The ESA’s charitable education initiative will launch within the next several months and is designed to teach job skills by harnessing children’s affinity for video games.
California’s law was written by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and signed in 2005 by then-Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger.
“Senator Yee and Governor Schwarzenegger wasted more than $1 million in taxpayer funds at a time when Californians could ill afford it,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA. “However we feel strongly that some of these funds should be used to improve services for California’s youth.”
In a statement following the state’s defeat in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association/Entertainment Software Association, Yee said that at least the law had succeeded in highlighting the issue and had “forced” the video game industry to improve its ratings system.
“Unfortunately, the majority of the Supreme Court once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children,” Yee said. “As a result of their decision, Wal-Mart and the video game industry will continue to make billions of dollars at the expense of our kids’ mental health and the safety of our community. It is simply wrong that the video game industry can be allowed to put their profit margins over the rights of parents and the well-being of children.”
Press release – http://tinyurl.com/7lon8s5
Sen. Leland Yee – http://dist08.casen.govoffice.com
Photo of Sen. Leland Yee on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court courtesy of Sen. Lee