Comic lobby rallies against California game law

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund files "friend of the court" briefs in Supreme Court case, citing possible effect on all media; film, recording, press support also expected.

Today, the Supreme Court case that may determine whether states can criminalize sales of games to minors grew a bit more complicated. That's because a legal lobby supporting the comic book industry has thrown its support behind the game industry by filing a "friend of the court" brief in the case, officially titled Schwarzenegger vs. the Entertainment Merchants Association.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is backing the game industry's Supreme Court fight against a potentially restrictive California law.

According to a copy of the brief obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund asked the Supreme Court to reject the law on the grounds that it "would undermine more First Amendment principles in a single case than any decision in living memory."

Robert Corn-Revere, an attorney with the law firm representing the CBLDF, expanded on the brief to the Times. "The first amendment is indivisible," he said. "If it's weakened for one medium, it's weakened for all. If a precedent is established for the censorship of games, it will be used for everybody else. You'll see a lot of support for our position from different quarters."

The Times expects those "quarters" to be some of the leading lobbies and organizations of the media and entertainment world, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom, the Radio Television News Association, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Motion Picture Association of America.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Schwarzenegger vs. the Entertainment Merchants Association on November 2. At issue in the case is California Assembly Bill 1179, which was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 but challenged in court before it could take effect.

Penned by California state assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), CAB1179 sought to ban the sale or rental of "violent video games" to children. A "violent" game was defined as a "game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being." If it becomes law, retailers that sold such games would be subject to a $1,000 fine.

The bill would also have required "violent" video games to bear a 2-inch-by-2-inch sticker with a "solid white '18' outlined in black" on their front covers. That's more than twice the size of the labels that currently adorn game-box covers and display the familiar Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating.

In 2007, a circuit court judge struck down the law as unconstitutional but admitted he was "sympathetic to what the legislature sought to do." Last year, an appellate court judge backed up the original ruling. Months before the appellate court's decision, in an appearance on GameSpot's HotSpot podcast, Yee predicted that the dispute would be pushed to the Supreme Court.

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206 comments
JusticeFromSeed
JusticeFromSeed

@jeremiah06 Oh, I'm not debating that at all - on the contrary, I agree that it seems likely that any laws made against this form of media will affect other forms of media in the future.

Amander123
Amander123

@Mattwo Frag fest or not, your typical videogame frags dont dismember, gut or mangle your enemy as blood and guts spew out everywhere. Dont get me wrong, there are games out there like gears of war (one of my personal favorites ^_^) and god of war that do push the boundaries, but you cant dismiss the graphicity of Mature rated comics

jeremiah06
jeremiah06

@JusticeFromSeed There isn't a fine as far as games goes. Thats what the whole case is about(and not the point I was trying to make). This case is about trying to instate a fine for selling M games to minors. The CBLDF is trying to say that if this fine can be put into place for games then soon fines will be setup for movies/comics/ etc.

JusticeFromSeed
JusticeFromSeed

@jeremiah06 There is indeed a fine associated with selling an M-rated game to minors. The employee in question is merely fired - the fine hits the company itself. I want to say it's $5,000 as per their contract with the ESRB, but I could be mistaken, I merely know it exists.

gamerpipe
gamerpipe

Is it ok for children to see Arnold video smoking weed, but not to play game that includes weed. nice. they should ban arnold photos too, as kids might discover some of his movies.

GeneralArrow
GeneralArrow

Now if only wal-mart would jump in on this I think the deal would be sealed I normally hate wal-mart but with there weight thrown in this would be a done deal.

TheEntertainist
TheEntertainist

This is so dumb. Kids are going to learn about violence sooner or later.

Bortson
Bortson

"game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being." every single game except tetris has some form of killing someone or something anthrophormorpised (what a hard word to spell). King Koopa is a reptile with human features, and you drop him into a pit of fire. Legend of Zelda has you hacking to death soldiers in armor. Megaman gives you a gun for an arm and you clearly kill lots of men, flashMAN, quickMAN, skullMAN. Everygame I can think of has you kill something. RTS you mow down soldiers and we all know there are thousands of men and women dying each time a nuke hits an enemy base and wipes it out or a carrier or anything not represented by mini soldiers on the gamefield. Good thing Tetris is pretty universally bad ass cause thats all we will have left if taken literally.

roams
roams

And yet... Republicans always advertise "less government"... maybe they can coordinate this with the not so patriotic Patriot Act and track game serial #s when you go live, track this back to merchants and maybe finally arrest those game retailing terrorists.

emceestar7
emceestar7

Why can't parents just do their job, and monitor what their kids buy.

Mattwo
Mattwo

@Amander123 I'm sorry how does a non moving DRAWN AND NOT RENDERED picture even come close to comparing to HD Gaming? I admit the classic, golden, and silver ages had it's light and dark times though, but I'm sure it can't compare to CONSTANTLY MASSACRING your opponents in a FRAG FEST?

keech
keech

I think Rich Taylor of the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) summed it up pretty well in a recent article in Gameinformer. "Do you want the government even beginning to get into the area of deciding what can and can't be sold and marketed, and ultimately created? Do you believe this form of creative entertainment deserves the same constitutional protection as books, films, and music?" "If you're a retailer you want to be able to sell the product without potentially being on the wrong side of the law. The easier course may be to not carry that game at all."

blargX
blargX

Why did they use a screenshot from City of Heroes and say it's for Marvel vs Capcom 3? Gamespot=plagiarists

mestdai
mestdai

I Live in The UK and work for GAME the biggest UK retailer of Video Games and We've had this as law for years. if a person under the age given to a game purchases the game, then not only does the retailer get a fine but so does the staff member who sold the game. It has quite a hefty fine of upto £5000 (roughly $7500 i think) a prison sentence and a criminal record. I think it is a good system I've had 8yr olds coming to me asking for GTA we have a legal obligation to refuse and we often get abuse of the kid but praise of the parent. but you guys are right they shouldn't single out Video Games if they make it law for games they should make the law for every other media. Here in the UK Video Games get very bad press for being violent and allowing kids to get hold of these games but by asking for ID it should stop people with innocent and mold able minds picking up harmful media.

kdog03
kdog03

parents need to do there !@#$ dam job they need to watch what there kids play and stop wasting tax payers job with this dumb stuff

MichaelMorbid
MichaelMorbid

@ Zcrimson07 it's important to distinguish between what's legislated and what a private party's policies are. what the theater requires of its patrons is not necessarily a city, state, or federal law. consider that the MPAA isn't even a government organization, it's rating criteria or member selection isn't formally accountable to any branch of government or even to the public. the exact same is true for the ESRB.

MichaelMorbid
MichaelMorbid

@Yajarobi actually minors do have rights, but this case is about the rights of the developers/publishers being infringed upon. they have a right to express themselves and sell their product to anyone who wants it. without a demonstrated compelling reason for government intervention the law would be unconstitutional. Given the precedents on the books for the mediums of literature, comics, and film it would be difficult to imagine the supreme court overturning the previous courts' rulings.

voltron_80
voltron_80

So what's next? Jailing a cashier for selling Lil Wayne albums to 14 yr olds? Jailing the the Borders bookstore clerk for selling Cormac McCarthy novels to 16 year olds.. If it becomes law for one particuilar medium, then you can bet it will become law for other similar mediums. People get bent out of shape over the 'under god' part of the pledge of allegiance, but completely ignore the parts that get steam rolled on all the time, you know the freedom, liberty, justice and all those things we sing about loving, but can't cite specific examples of having

Prezelman
Prezelman

@1357900 You do have a good point but say you let your kid play a violent game or something adult in it and then comes to my kid ,that I dont allow to play those games, at school and starts saying things to him. Now my kid may as well played the game because he heard what I was trying to keep him from hearing. It's not about these things being horrible its just the fact that when you let a kid know these things, it in a way forces them to grow up. They are no longer innocent because they know what sex is at 8 and the horrors of war.

jeremiah06
jeremiah06

@JusticeFromSeed Is there a monetary fine in place of kids seeing a R rated movie under age? If there is then you have a point but you can't compare games to alcohol and porn... I could be wrong but to the best of my knowledge there is no $1,000 fine for selling comic books or movie tickets to under age kids. This is why the CBLDF is getting involved because saying yes to this law leads the way for similar laws regarding movies/comic books etc.

Yajarobi
Yajarobi

I don't get it. Don't kids NOT have rights anyway? So how would banning them from purchasing something be unconstitutional?

JusticeFromSeed
JusticeFromSeed

@K-Grogg: While I understand where you are coming from, take that to the extreme. You say "Why is it for them to say at what age a kid is ready for certain content", but, what if that 'content' is more than video games? Take the concept of war. By your statement, should a person of any age be allowed to join the military? Should a person of any age be allowed to drink alcoholic beverages? While there are many opinions on each of these, the simple conclusion if that there are laws limiting many activities minors can and cannot participate in. Children cannot purchase pornographic films. Should they be allowed to purchase a game that portrays those same things and not a movie showing the same content? Personal experience is no excuse when it comes to stuff like that. Maybe your parents were insanely protective, so you see violent video games as needing a ban. Maybe your parents were completely apathetic about filtering out what content you viewed, so you see no problem with the industry as it is. Personally, I think that if there are laws on movies limiting them to certain age groups, then there should be on games as well. You can still get access to this content, but a parental median is needed to (legally) do so. So, remove the ban on movies, or create one on games. And before any trolls pull the "you're ignorant" crap on me, I do currently work in the video game sales market and likely have more experience on this issue than many of the people on here combined.

K-Grogg
K-Grogg

In the end I just don't think any kind of age or parenting suggestion should be put on the box. Why is it for them to say at what age a kid is ready for certain content. What should be on the case is what questionable or potentially offensive or disturbing depictions are in the game, no age, nothing, leave it to the parents. I mean, by the time I was 16 my dad was so fed up with having to go into stores to buy games for me because they were rated 17+, half the stuff in them I'd already seen/done in real life anyway.

K-Grogg
K-Grogg

I know that alcohol can have negative effects on the healthy development of immature (not yet fully developed) brains, but us kids are buying it anyways, no matter what our age or the potential risks.

hunter8man
hunter8man

I'm glad someone finally said something about this. Video games are being unfairly singled out, and that is why this law will fail yet again. If it is allowed, then you had better do the same for all forms of media. For a video game can stimulate the imagination just as much as any book, movie, or song can.

K-Grogg
K-Grogg

@The-Techspert I think drinking ages are worthless, especially for low % drinks. All the evidence shows that the higher the lower the drinking age, the lower the incidences of potentially lethal alcohol abuse and alcohol related accidents (ex: DUI)

K-Grogg
K-Grogg

News team, ASSEMBLEE!!!! No, but really, this stuff is complete BS.

spoonybard-hahs
spoonybard-hahs

I've said this before and I'll say it again: Why is this an issue? The consoles have a fracking parental lock on them. They will not play M-Rated games if parents actually research the toys they are giving their kids, and use the protective measures given to them. This is a waste of time and money. The irony here is that parents DEMANDED parental controls.

sgt-hawkins
sgt-hawkins

I hope they find a compromise that best suits both parties, and then enforce that both sides follow their set of rules. What i am most afraid of happening is that only a small part of this ends up being used, which will make the ones advocating for that side keep coming back, until eventually due to what i am going to call the "squeaky wheel" effect , the law will become completly lopsided.

Zcrimson07
Zcrimson07

why is this any different than MPAA rating R? if you're not 17 you can't see the movie without your parent. I know my theater IDs youngsters, but I don't know if they'd get fined for not doing so. Whatever that precedent is should be followed. Also, are they changing the age to 18 instead of 17?

starduke
starduke

Whatever happened to individual and parental responsibility? It's the parents job to decide what their kids play, not the governments. I, for one, would never let my kids play GTA until I thought they were old enough, and I would be the one to decide that. I don't need some law to help me do that. Also, having this law puts games on the same level with porn and guns. Movies rating aren't legally enforced. Heck, when I was a kid I read violent books (Hamlet, Macbeth, Star Trek, lotsa Sci-fi and Fantasy), what's next, a law regulating (non-pornographic) books?

visionedorange
visionedorange

people should just grow up and stop being stupid towards video games, if i wanted to play a game and i'm under-age, chances are i'm going to get my hands on it one way or the other (have my parent come in and get it) the whole rating system is so stupid..

visionedorange
visionedorange

people should just grow up and stop being stupid towards video games, if i wanted to play a game and i'm under-age, chances are i'm going to get my hands on it one way or the other (have my parent come in and get it) the whole rating system is so stupid..

TheTwig1987
TheTwig1987

Here's the deal, though, as some one who works in retail selling games, most parents don't care or use the excuse that he/she plays them at his/her friends' house or which ever. I very rarely see a parent that actually takes into consideration what their children sees when playing a game. Beyond that, in my experience, a good majority of the parents that do care about the content associated with the specific game will only care about the sexual related content that may be in the game. I very rarely see parents that completely prohibit their children from playing M rated games in general.

wahyudil
wahyudil

if this to be happen ... than there will be no more war in the world, as no one want to join Army because of games ...

djwood84
djwood84

How about THIS: We make every game case completely reflective. Then, when a parent gets angry that a kid is playing a violent game, they can pickup the case, look right at the cover and see the person responsible.

roddy72
roddy72

2 inch by 2 inch!!?? Holy crap, they are going to make the box art look like crap!...This is really stupid, hope the court come to their senses and don't allow this law to pass.

sieg6529
sieg6529

lazy parents, much? Seriously, I played violent games as a child, but my parents were always fully aware of it and made sure I knew the difference between reality and fantasy.

sgt-hawkins
sgt-hawkins

i dont really have a problem with what the law is trying to do as far as keeping violent games out of the hands of childeren. What i have a problem with is who gets to determine what a violent game is. I think that the industry should be left to determine ratings and the govt determines the fines and laws to back those ratings. If they let the government get controll of the whole thing than i am afraid the bar may be too restrictive due to a large number of very vocal anti game members

jedi-james
jedi-james

@drummerdickens i agree to be honest, i live in the uk, used to work at a gamestation.... 12yr old kid comes in, wants GTA, we say no next day he comes in with his mum and she buys it for him, and we say yes. thats her call thats how it is everywhere in the uk. if you ask me whe ID far too much over here and dont turn the odd blind eye because the consequences for the seller are way to steep... what more you gnna do?

Seretar
Seretar

@Keech Thanks for your reply. Two problems with it: first, even if all the "slippery slope" effects you suggest come to pass (which I profoundly doubt), it still doesn't constitute censorship in any meaningful sense, which is the charge I was questioning. Second, slippery slope arguments are not valid in themselves - they don't argue against the reasonableness of the action under consideration.

drummerdickens
drummerdickens

I don't know what it's like in America but in the UK shops will always ID you if they think you're too young when you buy games. If shops do that I don't see what the problem is?

grigjd3
grigjd3

Sometimes, a law should be upended by reason of being incredibly stupid. Putting a giant 18+ sticker on a game will insure it gets into the hands of more kids than ever before.

Neogenic
Neogenic

I can see why the governemnt in California is trying to push this law through. There ARE in fact quite a lot of parents that do not look at the ESRB advisement when buying a videogame for their children. Still doesn't sit well with me though that a government would just go ahead and turn such a thing into a criminal act, rather then try and educate parents about the possible dangers that may follow from buying games for children which might not yet fully understand the implication of violence within videogames...

1357900
1357900

If I ever have children, government will not intervene in their upbringing, since they will of course, be my kids. I don't think government should control upbringing of children: 1. Children are the sole responsibility of their parents. 2. B/c of individuality in regards to religion, & morals, for instance. I'm a Christian. But just because I believe in Jesus Christ doesn't mean anyone else does. That's what I mean by point 2. There are different religious, & moral upbringings here in this world, & having gov. try to intervene in the lives of my children, & others' children is just wrong on all accounts, as far as I'm concerned.

ptown58
ptown58

1984, here we come with a coma induced smile.

burns112233
burns112233

What I find funny is that when I was 14 years old and GTA III, Vice City, San Andreas, and all those other M rated PS2 games came out I would go to the store and was able to purchase the games easily no questions asked. Now that I'm an adult and I go to the store to buy games like Dead Space and Resident Evil 5 I get carded. Basically when I was underage I wouldn't get asked for my ID and now that I'm an adult I get asked for my ID.

1357900
1357900

Politicians create phantom problems, or @ least make something out to be more of a problem, than it actually is. Politicians also don't solve phantom/real problems like these, even if the solution is simple, as to have an excuse to not solve real problems. This is a perfect example: The solution is that the parents are the problem. They either don't care, &/or are not aware of what they're buying for their children. It's actually both. Since for the non-caring parents, whether they know better, or not, that piece of the problem can't be fixed. So then, concentrate on the other portion of the problem that can be fixed ~ educating the parents that wouldn't buy their kids "game x", if they knew what was in it. However, most parents I come into contact w/, & know personally, have the sense to know better, but don't care either way, b/c for w/e reasons they don't. Sometimes even, these children are unfortunately only in existence b/c the parents only want the money they can collect for having them (around). The whole issue is parents need to be responsible parents. It all begins @ home.Real parents are responsible for their children 100%, & this means their children come in priority before they (themselves) do. Not careers, jobs, social lives, or the like. But their own children. That is the responsibility of a person, when they either chose to adopt a child, &/or when they chose to have sex that made them have children.

HappyBB
HappyBB

It's in my opinion that these "lobbyists" are only interested in money. Cut the crap that we don't need government to intervene. If parents won't step up and take the responsibility of monitoring what their under-aged children are playing, then government should step in!

Prezelman
Prezelman

I think this is law is awesome. Actually I have said for awhile that you should have to be 18 to be able to even play the game not just your parents buy it for you. Kids growing up sitting in front of the tv playing violent games all day isnt the best thing for them while their mind is still developing. Not only that but I think that all the other adults here can agree that it is very annoying when a thirteen year old is screaming profanity and whining when he loses a game. If anything they should create adult lobbies in games that only 18 or older can go to so that us who are mature dont have to deal with the kids whose parents use video games as a baby sitter.