California asks U.S. high court to uphold ban on violent video games


California is taking one last stab at regulating violent video games.

Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown on Wednesday petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a state law banning the sale of such games to children. The law was overturned by a federal district court on 1st Amendment grounds in 2007. An appeals court in February denied California’s attempt to overturn that decision.

“In the same way pornography can be banned, pornographic violence can be banned as well,” Brown, who is widely expected to run for governor next year, asserted in an interview with The Times.


The law, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed in late 2005, bans the sale or rental of video games that the state deems “violent” to anyone younger than 18.

Video game publishers and retailers have consistently argued that their voluntary ratings system, similar to the one used by movie studios, is sufficient and that games shouldn’t be treated differently than other media.

“We are confident that this appeal will meet the same fate as the state’s previous failed efforts to regulate what courts around the country have uniformly held to be expression that is fully protected by the 1st Amendment,” said Michael Gallagher, chief executive and president of the Entertainment Software Assn., which represents game publishers.

Eight similar laws passed by other states and localities have been struck down by courts.

Should the Supreme Court agree to hear Brown’s case, it would be the first that deals with regulation of video games.

“The [Supreme] Court might see this as an issue where they should give guidance because there have been so many efforts around the country to pass these bills, and they don’t seem to be slowed down by the fact that the courts have roundly rejected them,” said Bob Corn-Revere, an attorney specializing in 1st Amendment issues at law firm Davis Wright Tremaine.