Legal Issues

Various courts have ruled 13 times in eight years that computer and video games are protected speech, and that efforts by state legislative bodies to ban or limit access to or the sale of games they find objectionable will inevitably run afoul of the First Amendment.

Most recently, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of ESA in the case of Brown v. EMA/ESA. The case centered on an ambiguous California law, passed in 2005, which sought to restrict the sale and rental of violent games to minors, and mandated an additional labeling requirement. In a 7-to-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that video games qualify for First Amendment protection, just like books, plays and movies, and parents and consumers can make their own entertainment choices.

Other court rulings include:

  • The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted a permanent injunction against the Chicago Transit Authority’s attempt to ban certain computer and video game advertisements.
  • The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma issued a permanent injunction against that state’s unconstitutional attempt at regulating computer and video games, ruling that video games are entitled to protection under the First Amendment.
  • The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ordered a permanent injunction to block implementation of a Louisiana statute seeking to ban the sale of violent video games to minors, acknowledging previous cases that found that video games are protected free speech.
  • The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota issued a permanent injunction to halt implementation of a Minnesota law which sought to penalize minors for the purchase or rental of M- or AO-rated games, rejecting the science presented by the state purporting to show a link between violent games and behavior.
  • The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan issued a permanent injunction halting the implementation of a Michigan bill, which sought to ban violent video game sales to minors.
  • The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois enjoined the Illinois Violent Video Games Law and Sexually Explicit Video Games Law, ruling that the state has failed to present substantial evidence showing that playing violent video games cause minors to have aggressive feelings or engage in aggressive behavior.

For a complete review and additional information of these issues and rulings, please refer to ESA’s Essential Facts About Games and Court Rulings.