A federal judge has struck down Washington state’s ban on selling violent video games to minors as an unconstitutional violation of free speech, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A trade association that had challenged the ban welcomed the ruling and said it would work to make sure parents have enough information to make informed decisions about the games’ suitability for children.
U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik said the Violent Video Game law, which has been on the books since May 2003 but has never been enforced, violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The law would have imposed a fine of up to $500 on anyone who rents or sells to someone 17 years old or younger video or computer games in which the player kills or injures “a human form who is depicted as a public law enforcement officer.” Similar laws have been enacted in St. Louis County, Mo., and elsewhere, but none has survived judicial review. Lasnik noted that obscenity is one of the few forms of expression not entitled to First Amendment protection; he rejected an invitation from the Washington Attorney General to expand the definition of obscenity to include violence. “The current state of research cannot support the legislative determinations that underlie the Act because there has been no showing that exposure to video games that ‘trivialize violence against law enforcement officers’ is likely to lead to actual violence against such officers,” Lasnik wrote.