ESA President Michael Gallagher  (Source:
ESA believes the Supreme Court protected the rights the video game industry felt it already had, and does not foresee any more similar cases in the near future

Yesterday marked a huge victory for the video game industry as the Supreme Court ruled against sale restrictions of violent video games to children. While certain Californians like Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) are not thrilled with the decision, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) was pleased with these results and even classified video games as protected speech at a press call yesterday.

ESA President Michael Gallagher gladly responded to questions regarding the Supreme Court decision, saying that this was "the thirteenth consecutive decision, and obviously the most important," and that the court upheld "the First Amendment rights of video game developers and video game companies."

California has been battling the video game industry in court since 2005 in an attempt to restrict the sales of violent video games to those under the age of 18. Yee was an avid supporter of this law, and described "violent" as killing, sexually assaulting, dismembering or maiming another human being.

"The state of California spent six years and hundreds of thousands - it will probably approach over a million dollars - in fees and creating uncertainty in the marketplace, and now we've reached this result where the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) is, in fact - as we've been saying for years - is the right approach," said Gallagher.

While Gallagher believes the video game industry and ESRB are in the right, he wanted to make it clear that the Supreme Court's decision did not extend the rights of video game companies. In other words, it doesn't mean that more violent games can be made. Rather, Gallagher says it guarantees the rights the industry already had.

"Today's decision is not going to confer any new rights onto the video game industry; it simply affirms the rights that we believe we've always had," said Gallagher. "The court decision didn't create a new right or a new opportunity and the industry is not going to take a different tack when it comes to ratings and making sure that we're being clear with parents about what our industry is providing."

From a lawyer's perspective, the Supreme Court's decision will likely keep the argument regarding violent video games at bay, but recognizes that the topic may come up again at some point.

"There's always the possibility that a change in personnel will change the views of the court," said lawyer Paul M. Smith. "This is a very strong opinion and the court does not overrule itself very readily. The quickest you see is decades at a time, in most cases.

"They didn't exactly suggest how you could write a law that could pass constitutional muster, and it's my view having worked on these cases for a decade that it is not possible using the tools of the English language to write a law that separates out permissible from impermissible violence for minors in a way that would have anywhere near the clarity you would require under the First Amendment, even if you got past all the other constitutional problems that the majority pointed out."

Smith added that any state attempting to pass a bill trying to regulate video game content is "just asking to pay my legal fees," and that the chance of another similar case anytime soon "has been slammed shut."

One question posed to Gallagher was what the chances of another similar case were if science proved that there was a link between violence in video games and violence in children, and Gallagher insisted that there is no link.

The question of more realistic graphics and content in the future was brought up as well.

"You could look at electric toothbrushes and microwave ovens and probably have similar concerns and right now, I'm not dealing with hypotheticals," said Gallagher. "Based on everything we know right now, the court did exactly the right thing."

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