California 2005 Video Game Law Ruled Unconstitutional

August 6, 2007 -

Read the ruling here

A federal district court judge has ruled California's 2005 video game law unconstitutional, ending a legal fight which lasted nearly two years.

The bill, championed by then-Assembly Speaker Leland Yee (D) was signed into law by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (left) on October 7th, 2005. The video game industry filed suit to block the law 10 days later.

Judge Ronald Whyte issued a preliminary injunction on December 22nd, blocking the California law from its planned effective date of January 1st, 2006. Since then, both sides have been waiting for Judge Whyte's final ruling. Today it has come.

A lot has happened since the suit was filed. The main plaintiff, the Video Software Dealers Association, no longer exists. The organization merged with the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association last year and is now known as the Entertainment Merchants Association, representing video game retailers and renters.

Doug Lowenstein, of course, is no longer with the video game publishers' association, the Entertainment Software Association, another plaintiff in the case. Mike Gallagher now heads the ESA. And Leland Yee moved from the California Assembly to the State Senate in November, 2006.

From Judge Whyte's ruling:

The evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, internet sites or other speech-related exposures.

Although some reputable professional individuals and organizations have expressed particular concern about the interactive nature of video games, there is no generally-accepted study that supports that concern. There has also been no detailed study to differentiate between the effects of violent videos on minors of different ages.

The court, although sympathetic to what the legislature sought to do by the Act, finds that the evidence does not establish the required nexus between the legislative concerns about the well-being of minors and the restrictions on speech required by the Act.



fuck ya big victory for gamers anywhere

Yay, three cheers for Judge Whyte.

I really need to learn my legal mumbo jumbo... I have to admit, I don't know much beyond what Phoenix Wright taught me ^_^;;

And I really lost all faith in the claims that violent games cause people to commit violent crimes a while ago when some big games critic cited Kingdom of Loathing ( caused a man to slaughter a group of girls.

For everyone's reference, KoL is a game with stick-figure graphics, where you can boost your defense by wearing an item called an Asshat.

@ Shih Tzu: You made my day!

[...] Via Game Politics [...]


Not unconstitutional for movies? What exactly do you mean? There is no law regulating children's access to movies. Please don't tell me you didn't know that, because that would truly be "awfully stupid". In fact, children have an easier time getting their hands on R rated DVD movies than M rated video games. Just look at what the Federal Trade Commission found:

How is this unconstitutional with video games, but not unconstitutional for movies? Seems like an awfully stupid double standard.

[...] In California, a bill was recently struck down as unconstitutional in regards to video game sales. The bill was supposed to block the sale of ultraviolent games to those under the age of 18. Well, seriously, there’s this thing you might want to read up on, called the ESRB. It, similar to movies, rates games for content, and parents have been ignoring them for years. Now they want the parents to have the "ultimate decision" as to whether or not they want their children protected, and a lot of parents simply don’t care enough to do such a thing. That’s how we end up with 12-year-olds screaming profanities and racial slurs on Xbox Live. [...]

[...] Game Politics reports that another video game sales restriction law has been overturned in court. This time, it was the long-awaited decision on California’s 2005 law, upon which some other (since stalled or overturned) bills and laws were built. Game Politics is also hosting a PDF of the judge’s ruling, which looks a lot like the other rulings from what I’ve seen so far (as described here; my explanation of strict scrutiny was a bit muddled then, but you get the basic idea). [...]

w00t. It's about time.

[...] Jugendschutz in den USA Hallo Kalifornisches Videospiel-Gesetz verfassungswidrig Das kalifornische Gesetz gegen den Verkauf gewalthaltiger Computerspiele an Minderj

Leland Yee -


[...] I have to say that when I first hear this I was happy and I had thought that common sense had won in this battle, but it seems that the Govenator wants to appeal the ruling by stating that the state is looking out for the best interest of the parents. Gamepolitics has been following the story like a hawk these past two days as well. [...]

Thanks for the highlights Zachary :)

- - - -

Its weird how surprising it is when the american legal system actually works the way it was intended...

@ MasterAssassin

I'm going to guess more than what it cost Illinois.

So how much will this cost the good taxpayers of CA

[...] As GamePolitics reports, after a two year battle, a federal district court judge has ruled California’s 2005 video game law unconstitutional. The law would have blocked the sale of violent games to those under 18, and each offense would hit retailers with a $1000 fine. From the Judge’s ruling: The evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, internet sites or other speech-related exposures. [...]


I was wondering when the judge would get around to releasing a verdict.

Anyway back when they made this bill, states were not sued for legal fees when the bills were found unconstitutional, so do you think California will be spared? (I hope so because that's where I live).

Man, this is coming right out of my taxes.

[...] YouTube Contact the Webmaster Link to Article video games California 2005 Video Game Law Ruled Unconstitutional » Posted at on Monday, August 06, 2007 California 2005 Video Game Law Ruled Unconstitutional August 6th, 2007 Read the ruling here ... in November, 2006. From Judge Whyte’s ruling: The evidence does not establish that video games ... and organizations have expressed particular concern about the interactive nature of video games View Original Article » [...]

I love this part:

"The government cannot constitutionally premise legislation on the desirability of controlling a person's private thoughts. First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought."

This part is great too:

"Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a
recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault is aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it."

Well, that was a good, long read. I noticed that this court was a lot more sympathetic to what it saw the state could do in regulating content. However, it does point out that video games aren't to be singled out quite yet, and the State has to be far narrower in its statutes to pass strict scrutiny. Which is good. It also points out that the State didn't prove how their tactic would be better than the current rating system, or that the current system is ineffective.

All in all, pretty good to see.

Sorry for the constant posting, I just love some of this stuff. Such as the following:

"In light of the fact that, upon turning eighteen, one can vote and fight in a war, a showing needs to be made that an individual nearing the age of majority needs to be shielded from uncensored speech to the same extent as an early adolescent."

"The evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, internet sites or other speech-related exposures."

I loved it so much, I gotta hear it again!

"The evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, internet sites or other speech-related exposures."

One more time for the people in the back!

"The evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, internet sites or other speech-related exposures."

(I can't find a really, really, good "Amen!" song on YouTube to put here. Just start singing it, that'll work!)

NW2K Software

Well, seeing Leland Yee get legally smacked down is nice, but it's no guarantee he won't try again.

There are others, who just believe it's what needs to be done, which is far more dangerous.

[...] Yet another anti-video game law ruled unconstitutional, this time in California Published in US, video games, justice system, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leland Yee and California. original article [...]

Oh thanks God. Every time one of these judgements comes up I catch myself holding my breath saying "will this be the day?"

After our invasion of Iraq and all that went into that with the lying, the misinformation to the public, the blatant disregard for international law and the number of times the constitution of the USA have been tested (and I'm sure we'll soon find out in time, broken on several occassions) I don't hold much faith in this Adminstration's era to up hold our laws too.

To all the people fighting to make sure we as gamers not only still enjoy our liberties as gamers but also as people of a free and democratic world, thank you very much. It is oh so appreciated.

While I hate being the Devil's advocate here, I seem to recall Thompson himself said this bill would be found unconstitutional when it was first introduced. So doing any victory dances and aiming DX-style crotch chops in his directly may be a bit premature.

On the other hand, feel free to aim as much crowing and boasting at Leland Yee as you want. :D

re my above post: "In his directly" should have read "In his direction." Bah. :(

suck it, california legislature!

I am a California lawyer and this what I have to say -- ABOUT F'ING TIME! Seriously, I have enough experience with the courts to understand precisely how slowly the wheels of justice grind. However, this case was submitted for decision a year and a half ago. There is no excuse for the ruling to take this long. Really, that's unconscionable.

For instance, in state courts, judges have no more than 90 days to issue a ruling. If they don't, then they are not allowed to collect a paycheck. Maybe that's how the federal courts should operate.

Actually, I gotta take that back. I am just now reading the court's ruling. This was done by way of summary judgment. Which, for all you legal eagles out there, explains why this took so damn long.

Still about f'ing time, though.


Actually, Thompson claimed this bill would be found constitutional and actually praised Yee because the bill was specific and sought to regulate video games the way obscene material is regulated using similar prong tests (he also claimed the same thing about the Louisiana bill, which was also ruled unconstitutional even though Thompson claimed it was "bullet-proof").

Anyway, Leland Yee should learn not to lie just to get his bills passed. Check this article out:

Congratulations Californians. Now pay up!

You should demand your millionaire Governor to pay the legal fees from his own purse.

Maybe a ballot to that affect in the next election cycle?

Re: 'Why did it take so long?'

You'd be surprised. Court cases, particularly ones that can overturn existing laws, can take a LONG time to resolve. Very, very rarely do things get wrapped up as neatly as they do on Law & Order. Lawyers will try to cite past cases, amicus curae (friend of the court) briefs will be introduced, experts will be called in... the wheels do tend to turn a bit slowly.

Whyte's ruling is very concise and to the point. There's simply not enough evidence to justify such restrictions on games.


Now we just need New York...

As it should be, and as it will only be in the courts. Federal judges are beholden to no one, have lifetime appointments, and can only be removed for malfeasance, not for disagreements with their rulings. When ridiculous laws based on fake logic get passed, the courts will strike em down. See the Pennsylvania case where intelligent design was to be taught in schools. The religious republican judge layed the smackdown and stated in his ruling, ID is not science. Here, there's no evidence other than political rhetoric that games cause violence, and that's not enough to ban them. Reason prevails. Bravo.

Great news!! I wonder whether ol' JT will find a way to de-ban himself to comment on this.

This is very good news!

Took him long enough. Now the eyes are on Oklahoma as the last state that needs to officially overturn theirs.

Forgive me for asking, but why did the ruling take so long? The outcome was pretty obvious to all of us.

For those of you who don't want to read the opinion, I've got a couple of the other key points noted in my post on it:

whatever happened to the New York law?

Zigs - the only thing us Californians are sucking on is the sweet nectar of economic success. you know you want to be us.

And another one bite the dust.

Pwned. Can't wait for details, this shall be delicious.

Where's your Thompson now, anti-game activists?!


About time. Although, as a taxpayer in California, I'm not looking forward to the fallout.


Its a pity all these bills keep getting passed, and end up costing the taxpayers so much more in legal fees to defend them in court. We can only hope that they'll eventually learn and stop passing the stupid things...
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