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First Amendment


  • Law professor Kevin Saunders, author of a book called Violence as Obscenity, has written a short fact sheet explaining why depictions of violence and obscenity should be treated similarly under the First Amendment indecency standard.

  • "Regulating Youth Access to Violent Video Games:  Three Responses to First Amendment Concerns" appears in the January 2003 Michigan State University - Detroit College of Law Review.

  • Extreme violence is a form of obscenity and, like sexual obscenity, should not be marketed to children, according to an Amicus brief filed by The Lion & Lamb Project.  The case, now before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, involves an ordinance passed by St. Louis County that makes it a crime to sell or rent video games which are known to be harmful to minors under 17 unless those children are accompanied by a parent or guardian.  The brief quotes U.S. District Judge David Hamilton, who ruled on a similar ordinance passed by the city of Indianapolis:  It would be an odd conception of the First Amendment & that would allow a state to prevent a boy from purchasing a magazine containing topless women in provocative poses & but give the same boy a constitutional right to train to become a sniper at the local arcade without his parents permission.

  • Does the First Amendment give video game manufacturers the right to sell adult-rated, violent video games to children?  A Boston Globe article examines arguments in a U.S. Court of Appeals case brought by the industry against a St. Louis County ordinance that restricts minors' access to violent video games.  Lion & Lamb's position is quoted in the article.

  • A recent U.S. District Court decision upheld an ordinance in St. Louis County, MO that requires parental consent before minors can purchase or rent adult-rated video games.  After an interesting discussion of the First Amendment implications, the judge cut through the hypocrisy of the video game industry when he ruled that: Non-violent video games can be purchased and played by everyone.  According to plaintiffs, that is the majority of video games.  Violent video games can be purchased and played by all those over seventeen, which according to plaintiffs are the majority of the purchasers.  Violent video games can also be purchased and played by those under the age of seventeen if the parents have given their consent.  So in practice, the video game industry is only restricted in conveying their violent message to those under seventeen years of age whose parents do not want their children viewing and/or playing that particular type of game. (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded for free, to view this decision.)

  • The First Amendment was written in order to encourage debate -- not shut it down. Today, industry spokesmen and others often cite the First Amendment as a way to close off discussion about the marketing of violent "entertainment" to children. Some scholars question whether commercial speech has the same protection as political speech.  Others argue that children have special protections under the First Amendment -- for example, cigarettes and alcohol cannot be marketed to children. An interesting discussion of the issue appears on a new website.

The Lion & Lamb Project