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Law Barring Kids From Violent Games Rejected


Kid Ad Law
April 8, 2008



A Minnesota law that sought to prevent minors from buying or renting video games with mature content has been deemed by a federal appeals court to be an unconstitutional infringement of free speech rights.

Minnesota's Restricted Video Games Act prohibited individuals under the age of 17 from renting or purchasing video games that were rated AO (Adults Only) or M (Mature) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The Entertainment Software Association and another trade group sued the state of Minnesota, challenging the law's constitutionality.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that to pass constitutional muster, the statute must meet the heightened standard of strict scrutiny, which is reserved for protected free speech.

"We have held that violent video games are protected free speech," the court noted. As such, the state had to prove that its statute was "necessary to serve a compelling state interest and ... is narrowly tailored to achieve that end."

"[W]e believe that the State's evidence provides substantial support for its contention that violent video games have a deleterious effect upon the psychological well-being of minors," the court acknowledged.

But the evidence was not sufficiently conclusive to meet the strict scrutiny standard.

"[W]e conclude that the evidence falls short of establishing the statistical certainty of causation demanded," the court stated, "[w]hatever our intuitive (dare we say commonsense) feelings regarding the effect that the extreme violence portrayed in the above-described video games may well have upon the psychological well-being of minors...."


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