US & Canada

US court rejects California ban on violent video games

Grand Theft Auto
Image caption There is conflicting evidence over the effect of violent games

The US Supreme Court has overturned a Californian law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to those aged under 18.

The court voted 7-2 to uphold an appeals court ruling that declared the law contrary to free speech rights enshrined in the US Constitution.

Video game publishers challenged the 2005 measure, which never took effect because of legal proceedings.

Supporters argued the law was needed as violent games could harm children.

Speaking at the Supreme Court on Monday, Justice Antonin Scalia said: "Our cases hold that minors are entitled to a significant degree of First Amendment protection.

"Government has no free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which they may be exposed."

The US video game industry has about $10.5bn (£6.55bn) in annual sales.

'Morbid interests'

The 2005 California law prohibited the sale of violent video games to children "where a reasonable person would find that the violent content appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors, is patently offensive to prevailing community standards as to what is suitable for minors, and causes the game as a whole to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors".

Under the law, parents could still purchase violent video games for their children, but retailers caught selling the titles to minors could face a fine of up to $1,000 (£625) for each game.

After a legal challenge by industry groups, a district court and then the court of appeals stopped the law coming into effect.

Courts in six other states have also reached similar conclusions, striking down bans.

There is already a nationwide voluntary system of game classification in the US.

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