ASNE participates in amicus in video game case
Another week, another Supreme Court amicus brief. In Entertainment Merchants Association v. Schwarzenegger, the Court is considering whether to carve out an exception to the First Amendment which could have serious long-term implications for news organizations.
Though not instantly recognizable as a case that affects the day-to-day work of ASNE members, the U.S. Supreme Court in Entertainment Merchants Association v. Schwarzenegger is considering whether to carve out an exception to the First Amendment which could have serious long-term implications for news organizations. As a result, ASNE joined six other media organizations on an amicus brief filed last week supporting the free-speech rights of the video game manufacturers and retailers who are plaintiffs in the case.
At issue is a law passed by the state of California in 2005 prohibiting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. The plaintiffs challenged the law in federal court, and it was struck down as a violation of the First Amendment. That ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The state of California appealed and the Supreme Court agreed to take the case.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press drafted the amicus brief, which was also joined by the First Amendment Project, National Press Photographers Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Society of Professional Journalists, and Student Press Law Center. The brief makes the following arguments:
- There is no reason to create new categories of unprotected speech. Specific regulation of violent speech has been repeatedly rejected by the courts. While California's law only restricts the sale of violent video games to minors, if it is upheld it will open the door for other challenges to violent speech in other media.
- The Court should refrain from regulating speech in the absence of a clear harm, and it shouldn't assume that perceived fears about violent video games are justified. The same fears were raised in the past with regard to dime novels, comic books, movies, theater, television and music, and they proved to be misplaced. (On this point, the brief cites a 2004 law review article written by ASNE Vice President Ken Paulson.)
- Banning access to violent video games may lead to restrictions on representations of violence in the news media, such as “descriptions and photographs of violence during wars, criminal acts, descriptions of gang violence and riots.”
You can read more about Entertainment Merchants Association v. Schwarzenegger on the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website, where you can also find a copy of the brief itself. The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case on November 2.