Az eldöntendő kérdés a következő volt:
Whether a California law imposing restrictions on violent video games comports with the First Amendment.
„the sale or rental of ’violent video games’ to minors, and requires their packaging to be labeled ’18.’ The Act covers games ’in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being, if those acts are depicted’ in a manner that ’[a] reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors,’ that is ’patently offensive to prevailing standards in the community as to what is suitable for minors,’ and that ’causes the game, as a whole, to lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.’ §1746(d)(1)(A).
A szakasz megsértőjét 1000 dollárig terjedő pénzbüntetéssel lehetne sújtani.
Scalia bíró írta a többségi véleményt, amelyhez Kenedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor és Kagan csatlakozott. Alito párhuzamos indokolással láta el a döntést, amelyhez Robert csatlakozott. Breyer és Thomas különvéleményt fogalmazott meg (a hivatkozott ún. slip opinion-on belül mindegyik bíró véleményét el lehet olvasni).
Scalia szerint a védendő érték szempontjából nincs különbség Dante és a Mortal Combat között.
„JUSTICE ALITO accuses us of pronouncing that playing violent video games “is not different in ‘kind’ ” from reading violent literature. Post, at 2. Well of course it is different in kind, but not in a way that causes the provision and viewing of violent video games, unlike the provision and reading of books, not to be expressive activity and hence not to enjoy First Amendment protection. Reading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat. But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones. Crudely violent video games, tawdry TV shows, and cheap novels and magazines are no less forms of speech than The Divine Comedy, and restrictions upon them must survive strict scrutiny—a question to which we devote our attention in Part III, infra. Even if we can see in them “nothing of any possible value to society . . . , they are as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature.” Winters v. New York, 333 U. S. 507, 510 (1948).” Slip opinion, p. 9., fn 4.
„California’s law imposes no more than a modest restriction on expression. The statute prevents no one from playing a video game, it prevents no adult from buying a video game, and it prevents no child or adolescent from obtaining a game provided a parent is willing to help. §1746.1(c). All it prevents is a child or adolescent from buying, without a parent’s assistance, a gruesomely vio lent video game of a kind that the industry itself tells us it wants to keep out of the hands of those under the age of 17. See Brief for Respondents 8. Nor is the statute, if upheld, likely to create a precedent that would adversely affect other media, say films, or videos, or books. A typical video game involves a significant amount of physical activity. See ante, at 13–14 (ALITO, J., concurring in judgment) (citing examples of the increasing interactivity of video game controllers). And pushing buttons that achieve an interactive, virtual form of target practice (using images of human beings as targets), while containing an expressive component, is not just like watching a typical movie. See infra, at 14.” Slip opinion, p. 10-11.
A döntés összefoglalója:
The Act does not comport with the First Amendment. Pp. 2–18.
(a) Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And “the basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary” with a new and different communication medium. Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U. S. 495, 503. The most basic principle—that government lacks the power to restrict expression because of its message, ideas, subject matter, or content, Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union, 535 U. S. 564, 573—is subject to a few limited exceptions for historically unprotected speech, such as obscenity, incitement, and fighting words. But a legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test. See United States v. Stevens, 559 U. S. ___, ___. […]
(b) Because the Act imposes a restriction on the content of protected speech, it is invalid unless California can demonstrate that it passes strict scrutiny, i.e., it is justified by a compelling government interest and is narrowly drawn to serve that interest. R. A. V. v. St. Paul, 505 U. S. 377, 395. California cannot meet that standard. Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively. Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media. Since California has declined to restrict those other media, e.g., Saturday morning cartoons, its video-game regulation is wildly underinclusive, raising serious doubts about whether the State is pursuing the interest it invokes or is instead disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint. California also cannot show that the Act’s restrictions meet the alleged substantial need of parents who wish to restrict their children’s access to violent videos. The video-game industry’s voluntary rating system already accomplishes that to a large extent. Moreover, as a means of assisting parents the Act is greatly overinclusive, since not all of the children who are prohibited from purchasing violent video games have parents who disapprove of their doing so. The Act cannot satisfy strict scrutiny. Pp. 11–18. 556 F. 3d 950, affirmed.