The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether California can ban the sale or rental of violent video games to children.
The court will review a federal court's decision to throw out California's ban. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento said the law violated minors' rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution.
California's law would have prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to anyone under 18. It also would have created strict labeling requirements for video game manufacturers. Retailers who violated the act would have been fined up to $1,000 for each violation.
The law never took effect, and was challenged shortly after it was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A U.S. District Court blocked it after the industry sued the state, citing constitutional concerns.
Opponents of the law note that video games already are labeled with a rating system that lets parents decide what games their children can purchase and play. They also argue that the video games are protected forms of expression under the First Amendment.
The high court's action Monday was surprising, given that justices just last week voted 8-1 to strike down a federal law that banned videos showing animal cruelty. The California case poses similar free speech concerns, although the state law is aimed at protecting children, raising an additional issue that affect the high court's consideration.
California lawmakers approved the law, in part, by relying on several studies suggesting that some video games can be linked to aggression, anti-social behavior and desensitization to violence in children. But federal judges have dismissed that research.
The supporters of the law say the same legal justifications for banning minors from accessing pornography can be applied to violent video games. They point to recent Federal Trade Commission studies suggesting that the video game industry's rating system was not effective in blocking minors from purchasing M-rated, or mature-rated games, designed for adults.
But courts in other states have struck down similar laws.
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