Media Advisory: Media Coalition Concerned About Potential Impact of Violent Video Game Case in Supreme Court Tomorrow

Experts Available to Discuss Previous Attempts to Ban Material with Violent Themes and How an Adverse Ruling Could Impact a Wide Range of Media

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, November 1, 2010

CONTACT:  Amy Long, (212) 587-4025, x12

NEW YORK — Media Coalition, a trade association that defends the First Amendment rights of mainstream media, has brought together a wide range of groups in urging the Supreme Court to strike down California’s restrictions on video games with violent themes, saying that free speech principles previously upheld by the Justices should apply to video games as well.

Experts from the organization are available to discuss the case and the history of attempts to ban material with violent themes.

At issue in Schwarzenegger v. EMA (No. 08-1448), being argued tomorrow, is a challenge to a 2005 California law that prohibits the sale or rental to minors of any video game containing certain violent content. The law — blocked by a federal judge in 2006 before it took effect — also requires manufacturers to include an “18 and older” warning label on the front of the package, and provides civil penalties of up to $1,000 for violations.

“The Supreme Court has not permitted restrictions on violent speech in books, movies, music, the Internet, and other mediums, and we believe that the same free speech rights apply to video games,” said David Horowitz, Executive Director of Media Coalition, which has played a key role over the past decade in challenging laws that attempt to curtail violent speech. “This law may be aimed at the video game industry but, contrary to California’s claims, it could be broadened to apply to a much wider range of media. The potential impact of this decision is clearly reflected in the wide range of mainstream groups that have joined in opposing it.”

The Media Coalition ”friend of the court” brief was joined by five of its members — American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Inc., Freedom to Read Foundation, National Association of Recording Merchandisers, and Recording Industry Association of America  as well as by four other industry groups: Association of National Advertisers, Amusement  & Music Operators Association, PEN Center USA, and The Recording Academy. (In all, 27 of the 31 “friend of the court” briefs filed in tomorrow’s case oppose the California law.)

In addition to opposing passage of California’s law and filing amicus briefs once it was enacted, Media Coalition also successfully challenged violence bans applying to all media, not just video games, in Ohio and Tennessee. Both cases were cited in California’s Supreme Court brief in support of its law, despite the fact that these bans were struck down.

Media Coalition also filed amicus briefs in victorious challenges to similar state and local laws in Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Washington.  Similar laws were successfully challenged in Louisiana, Michigan, and Oklahoma.  In all of these cases, the courts ruled that that government cannot ban speech with violent themes, and that computer and video games are forms of artistic expression that, like movies, books, and music, are fully protected by the First Amendment.

Media Coalition’s brief was authored by Michael A. Bamberger of the New York law firm SNR Denton.

The brief is online at http://mediacoalition.org/files/Brown_EMA_amicus_MediaCoalition.pdf

Media Coalition, Inc., founded in 1973, is an association that defends the First Amendment right to produce and sell books, movies, magazines, recordings, DVDs, videotapes, and video games, and defends the American public’s First Amendment right to have access to the broadest possible range of opinion and entertainment. 

###