Video games get 'art' status in the US.
A federal appeals court panel has struck down a law that restricted children's access to violent video games, giving the software the same free-speech protection as that for works of art.
A panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that a Missouri ordinance that bans the rentals or sales of graphically violent video games to minors violates free-speech rights. In doing so, the panel reversed a ruling by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and ordered the lower court to craft an injunction that would prohibit the ordinance from taking effect.
In Tuesday's ruling, the panel decided that if the paintings of Jackson Pollock, the music of Arnold Schoenberg and the Jabberwocky verse of Lewis Carroll are protected by the First Amendment, then video games should be, too.
"We see no reason why the pictures, graphic design, concept art, sounds, music, stories and narrative present in video games are not entitled to similar protection," the judges wrote. "The mere fact that they appear in a novel medium is of no legal consequence."
The panel said that the games are constitutionally protected speech.
"Whether we believe the advent of violent video games adds anything of value to society is irrelevant," the judges wrote. "Guided by the First Amendment, we are obliged to recognise that they are as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature."
A ban on such games, the panel said, would encourage other local governments to violate the First Amendment rights of minors under the pretext of parental authority. They also rejected the county's assertions that games should be banned because they're harmful to minors.
"The county's conclusion that there is a strong likelihood that minors who play violent video games will suffer a deleterious effect on their psychological health is simply unsupported in the record," they said.
The Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), which challenged the ordinance alongside other video game industry associations, cheered the ruling.
"This decision is a total and unambiguous affirmation of our position that video games have the same constitutional status as a painting, a film or a book," Douglas Lowenstein, president of the IDSA, said in a statement. "The decision sends a powerful signal to government at all levels that efforts to regulate consumers' access to the creative and expressive content found in video games will not be tolerated."
Local representatives said they were considering appealing the ruling. "We're disappointed by the decision," Patricia Redington, county counsellor for St. Louis County in Missouri, said. "It means the kids can rent video games without their parents' permission."