Sunday, October 15, 2006

prior restraint against video games

yet another attempt to censor a video game... this time it's a game that hasn't even been released yet.

A Florida judge has ordered the maker of "Grand Theft Auto" to hand over an unreleased video game set in a high school, a move that raises questions about the legal protections that games enjoy.

The judge is being asked to grant a partial injunction against sales of the forthcoming Take-Two Interactive Software game, called "Bully" and set at a fictional private school named Bullworth Academy. "Bully" is scheduled for release on Tuesday.

Ever since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1931, the law has said that injunctions placed on material before publication run afoul of constitutional protections of freedom of speech. In a subsequent 1971 ruling, for instance, the justices warned that such an injunction "constitutes an impermissible restraint on First Amendment rights."

in other words, one of the tenets of first amendment law is that prior restraint is unconstitutional.

Other courts that have recently considered state and municipal restrictions on video games have taken a dim view of those restrictive laws.

Probably the most influential opinion was written by libertarian-leaning judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down an Indianapolis law restricting minors' access to arcade games that might appeal to a "morbid" interest in violence.

"The common sense reaction to the Indianapolis ordinance could be overcome by social scientific evidence, but has not been," Posner wrote in 2001. "The ordinance curtails freedom of expression significantly and, on this record, without any offsetting justification."

i'd be shocked if the judge actually grants the injunction, but then again, i'm surprised that the judge even appears to be considering it.

update: as syntax pointed out in the comments, sanity prevailed and the judge allowed bully to be released. jack thompson, who in this case was the bully trying to beat up on take-two, subsequently flipped out.

1 comment:

syntax said...

i saw something on raw story today that mentioned that the judge ok'ed "bully". which is cool - i saw a trailer for the game, and it looks like it could be fun in a twisted, schadenfreude-appealing sort of way.