California Videogame Ban Reaches Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday began reviewing the constitutionality of a proposed California law that would ban retailers from selling violent videogame titles to minors. The law, first proposed in 2005, was ruled unconstitutional by a lower court.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia both questioned the prosposed law, with Ginsburg questioning whether some groups might attempt to apply the same law to films and comic books, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts said it's reasonable to assume that allowing children to play more violent titles may impact their "moral development." Justice Stephen Breyer said banning minors from buying graphically violent titles would be consistent with rules which prohibit them from accessing pornography, the wire service said.

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The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last April. The law, according to court documents, seeks to "prohibit the sale of violent video games to minors under 18 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."

Retailers selling certain titles to customers under 18 years old would face a fine of as much as $1,000 per title sold, according to the AP.

A retail trade group, the Entertainment Merchant Association, hoped to avoid Supreme Court review, though said in an April statement that the higher court "will conclude that the lower court correctly analyzed the law and reached the appropriate conclusion."

The videogame industry, in which sales surged during recent years before plummeting this year, has come under fire as many of its most popular games feature graphic violence. U.S. videogame hardware and software sales through the first nine months of the year fell 8% from a year earlier, to $9.89 billion, as cash-strapped gamers bought more used games, played free titles online, and held off on buying new consoles, according to NPD Group.