For the non-movie fans out there, “First Monday In October” is a movie about the Supreme Court of the United States. In pushing for the violence ratings on video games, and the ban of sales to those under 18, the Governator has assured himself a place in Supreme Court history. The case will not be heard until October of this year, and I wonder what the effect will be on the governor’s race in California. By trying to straddle the middle ground, Arnold Schwarzenegger has managed to put himself in a position with few friends and many Republicans running away from him as an exemplar of the party.
Still, those who oppose the free sale of games to children must be happy that the case will be heard by the highest court – though in past cases that were similar, judgements went against the side that would so regulate.
The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to review the case of Schwarzenegger v. Video Software Dealers Association, a lawsuit that arose from a challenge to a law that would ban the sale or rental of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18. According to a post on SCOTUSblog, the case will be heard when the court’s next term starts on October 4. Gaming laws have a long, contentious history… and so far every bill passed to regulate the sale of content has been struck down as unconstitutional.
The California law was originally passed in 2005 with strong support from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The law was terminated in 2007, but an appeal was made to the Supreme Court in May of last year. According to the SCOTUS blog, the case was being held until the verdict of U.S. v. Stevens was decided.
In that case, a law banning the depiction of animal cruelty on video was struck down, as "the Justices refused to create a new exception to the First Amendment free speech right." The California law is urging the court to use a constitutional standard used to protect minors from obscene materials and apply it to the sale and rental of violent video games. Historically, this standard has never been applied to violent content.
"Courts throughout the country have ruled consistently that content-based regulation of computer and video games is unconstitutional," Entertainment Software Association president Michael D. Gallagher said in a statement. "Research shows that the public agrees; video games should be provided the same protections as books, movies and music.
"As the Court recognized last week in the US v. Stevens case, the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few ‘historic and traditional categories’ that are ‘well-defined and narrowly limited.’ 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."
The other side
Clearly Gov. Schwarzenegger is very passionate about the subject, having worked with Senator Leland Yee for several years in an attempt to get the original bill passed.
"I signed this important measure to ensure parents are involved in determining which video games are appropriate for their children," Schwarzenegger said after green-lighting the appeal last year. "By prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children under the age of 18 and requiring these games to be clearly labeled, this law would allow parents to make better informed decisions for their kids. I will continue to vigorously defend this law and protect the well-being of California’s kids."
Unfortunately for both Lee and Schwarzenegger, similar attempts to ban the sale of violent games to minors have been made in the past, and they have yet to be successful. In addition to California, these laws have been struck down in states like Michigan, Louisiana, and Washington. This does mark the first time that the issue will be put before the Supreme Court. If the law fails here, as seems likely by past rulings, the issue may finally be put to rest.
The Governor is hard to figure out. He is more than Republican in name only (RINO), but appears to be a much harder guy to pin down; with great stances on the environment among the views which make him decidedly different than some of his party mates.
It is too bad that he was unable to get much done during his time in office, but he was handicapped from the start, with the many problems of the state he inherited, and the inability of the legislature to agree on much of anything.
When his time in office is over, I hope that President Obama finds a place for him in his administration, as he aligns with many of he President’s pragmatic positions, and would make a great statesman.
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