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Video Game Publishers and Retailers Respond to Court Ruling Overturning California Video Game Restriction Law


U.S. Ninth Circuit Court Sides with Groups in Challenge to 2005 Law

ENCINO, CA and WASHINGTON, DC – February 20, 2009 – Following are statements of Bo Andersen, President and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) and Michael D. Gallagher, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), in response to today’s ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the case of Video Software Dealers Association v. Schwarzenegger (#07-16620), which held a 2005 video game restriction law enacted by the state of California to be an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

Statement of Bo Andersen: “We are extremely gratified by the court’s rejection of video game censorship by the state of California. The ruling vindicates what we have said since the bill that became this law was introduced: ratings education, retailer ratings enforcement, and control of game play by parents are the appropriate responses to concerns about video game content.

“Retailers are committed to assisting parents in assuring that children do not purchase games that are not appropriate for their age. Independent surveys show that retailers are doing a very good job in this area, with an 80% enforcement rate, and retailers will continue to work to increase enforcement rates even further. The court has correctly noted that the state cannot simply dismiss these efforts.

“I understand that some government officials will push for the state to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review this decision. The state should not acquiesce in this demand, particularly in light of its budget difficulties. The state has already wasted too many tax dollars, at least $283,000 at last count, on this ill-advised, and ultimately doomed, attempt at state-sponsored nannyism.”

Statement of Michael D. Gallagher: “This is a win for California’s citizens. This is a clear signal that in California and across the country, the reckless pursuit of anti-video game legislation like this is an exercise in wasting taxpayer money, government time, and state resources. In the end, common sense prevailed with the court determining that, after exhaustive review, video games do not cause psychological or neurological harm to minors. And, that the ESRB rating system, educational campaigns and parental controls are the best tools for parents to help control what their children play.”


In 2005, the state of California enacted a law to restrict the sale or rental to anyone under the age of 18 of computer and video games that are classified as “violent video games” if the depictions of violence in the games are offensive to the community or if the violence depicted is committed in an “especially heinous, cruel, or depraved” manner. The law was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2006.

Prior to the law taking effect, the Video Software Dealers Association (now the Entertainment Merchants Association) and the Entertainment Software Association filed suit against California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and others to prevent its enforcement. The plaintiffs asserted that the law’s restriction on the sale or rental of certain violent video games violates their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to freedom of expression and equal protection of the laws and is unconstitutionally vague.

In August 2007, a federal district court judge granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and permanently barred enforcement of California’s video game law. In doing so, the judge ruled that video games are protected by the First Amendment, the law is unduly restrictive and uses overly broad definitions, and the state failed to show that the limitations on violent video games would actually protect children.

The state of California appealed the summary judgment ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments on the appeal on October 29, 2008 at a special sitting at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, CA.

Additional information and links to case documents are at:

The Entertainment Merchants Association is the not-for-profit international trade association dedicated to advancing the interests of the $33 billion home entertainment industry. EMA represents approximately 600 companies throughout the United States, Canada, and other nations. Its members operate approximately 20,000 retail outlets in the U.S. that sell and/or rent DVDs and computer and console video games and digitally distributed versions of these products. Membership comprises the full spectrum of retailers (from single-store specialists to multi-line mass merchants, and both brick and mortar and online stores), distributors, the home video divisions of major and independent motion picture studios, and other related businesses that constitute and support the home entertainment industry. EMA was established in April 2006 through the merger of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA).

The Entertainment Software Association is the U.S. association dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies publishing interactive games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers and the Internet. The ESA offers services to interactive entertainment software publishers including a global anti-piracy program, owning the E3 Media & Business Summit, business and consumer research, federal and state government relations, First Amendment and intellectual property protection efforts. For more information, please visit


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