Restrictions on Videogame Sales

The US Supreme Court has indicated that it will be hearing an appeal regarding a California law (which has, due to various court challenges, never actually been enforced) which prohibits the rental or sale of violent videogames to minors.  The law is being challenged on First Amendment grounds, and Wired reports that "similar bans have been overturned in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Oklahoma, and in the cities of Indianapolis and St. Louis."  The Huffington Post has comprehensive coverage of the matter in "Supreme Court Video Game Case: SCOTUS to Decide If California Can Regulate Games", and SCOTUSBlog has links to various amici briefs and the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Canada, Ontario has had content-based restrictions on the sale or rental of videogames to minors in place for a number of years now, which are administered by the Ontario Film Review Board.  As the OFRB’s website on the sale of videogames and computer games to minors notes, the OFRB has adopted the classification system used by the Entertainment Software Rating BoardUnder the Film Classification Act, 2005, and Ontario Regulation 452/05, "video games that are classified as "Mature" may not be sold, rented or exhibited to a person under the age of 17 and video games that are classified as "Adults Only" may not be sold, rented or exhibited to a person under the age of 18."

UPDATE: Marie-Andrée Weiss provides some analysis of the applicable US law in "Should violent video games be disqualified as speech?" at the NYSBA’s Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Blog.

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Bob Tarantino

About Bob Tarantino

Bob Tarantino is Counsel at Dentons Canada LLP and focuses his practice on the interface between the entertainment industries and intellectual property law, with an emphasis on film and television production, financing, licensing, distribution, and IP acquisition and protection. His clients range from artists and independent producers to Canadian distributors and foreign studios and financiers at every stage of the creative process, from development to delivery and exploitation.

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