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California Video Game Law Halted by Federal Judge

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On December 21, 2005 Judge Ronald Whyte, United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, instated a preliminary injunction halting the execution of California?s new Video Game law. The law would restrict video game sales and rentals to minors, and implement hefty fines and possible criminal repercussions for those that sold or rented restricted video games to minors.

Judge Whyte wrote that, ?games are protected by the First Amendment and that the Plaintiffs are likely to prevail in their argument that the Act violates the First Amendment.?

Judge Whyte called upon previous rulings on similar legislation in other states. These rulings not only deemed the legislation unconstitutional, but that the research purporting to show a link between video games and violence does not show a causal link. In citing these rulings Judge Whyte pointed out that the research did not assess the significance of any purported link, nor did it compare video games to other forms of media violence to which minors are often exposed.

?We deeply respect the concerns of the Governor and the Legislature that gave rise to the law,? said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association. ?For the sixth time in five years, Federal Courts have now blocked or struck down these state and local laws? it is therefore time to look past legislation and litigation in favor of cooperative efforts to accomplish the common goal of ensuring that parents use the tools available to control the games their kids play.?

Lowenstein went on to say that between the ESRB rating system, parental education, and the addition of parental controls on all next-generation consoles, there are many ways for parents to monitor and control their children?s access to video games.

?In sum, we believe a combination of parental choice and parental control is the legal, sensible, and most importantly, effective way to help parents keep inappropriate video games from children, and we dedicate ourselves to working with all parties to accomplish this goal,? said Lowenstein.

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