Hollywood Unites to Beat Down Anti-Videogame Law

WGA, DGA, SAG, AFTRA, NATO, others, make plea to Supreme Court, fearing it could eventually extend to movies

Hollywood studios and unions joined together Friday to urge the Supreme Court to overturn a California law that would ban violent videogames, fearing similar laws could be used to target violent movies.

The law, which bans the sale of violent games to minors — but allows the government to determine which games are violent — was passed by the state Legislature in 2005 but overturned by a U.S. District Court. It was appealed by the state and upheld as as unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The state now is asking the Supreme Court to uphold the law.

Hollywood is hoping to slap it down.

Noting the increasing “symbiotic relationship” between Hollywood studios and gamemakers," the coalition –which includes Motion Picture Association of America, the Writers Guild of America West, the Directors Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artiss, the Independent Film and Television Alliance, the National Association of Theater Owners and Lucasfilm — warned that the government "would presumably be empowered to proscribe the distribution or viewership of depictions of violence in motion pictures, television, and books,”

In one example, it said the law "could have impact the ability of some youths to see the Academy Award-winning 'The Hurt Locker' which opens with a violent scene in which an Army officer is unsuccessfully disposing of a remote control bomb."

The opposition to the law was stated in a Friend of the Court brief. The law is formally being challenged by the Entertainment Merchants Association, which successfully blocked its implementation in district court, arguing it violated the Constitution in regulating content.

Violent videogames are described in the law as those “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being, if those acts are depicted” in a way that "appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors” or is “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the community."

Aside for arguing that it is unconstitutional, the Friend of the Court brief warns that the state’s “proposed categorical exemption [of violence from First Amendment protection] would not be limited to the particular medium of videogames and it would require courts to engage in the difficult enterprise of determining which depictions of violence could be regulated and which could not.”

It also warns that it would "require courts to engage in the difficult enterprise of determining which depictions of violence could be regulated and which could not,”

While the California law is the immediate target of the suit, the filing also could indicate an attack to head off Congress. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has repeatedly decried violence on TV and talked about trying to limit it.