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Court Bars Minnesota Law On Violent Video Games

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Violent video games are protected speech even for children, the 8th Circuit ruled, rejecting a Minnesota law banning anyone under 17 from buying or renting video games rated "adult only" or "mature."

The Minnesota Restricted Video Games Act of 2006 imposes a $25 fine on any minor who knowingly buys or rents the banned games, and requires game retailers to post a sign notifying young buyers about the state prohibition and penalty.

The Entertainment Software Association and Entertainment Merchants Association challenged the constitutionality of the law and successfully sought a permanent injunction in federal court against its enforcement.

The state argued that the law is necessary to safeguard children's psychological health and moral development. It introduced into evidence the joint statement of six medical and public health organizations, claiming that "well over 1,000 studies ... point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children," and that the impact is greater for violent video games than for violent television, movies or music.

Some of the violent M-rated games mentioned in the previous ruling include "Resident Evil: 4," "Manhunt," "The Punisher" and "God of War."

Though the appeals court said it believes the state's claim that violent games affect children psychologically, the state failed establish the required causal link between violent games and violent behavior.

"Whatever our intuitive (dare we say commonsense) feelings regarding the effect that extreme violence portrayed in ... video games may well have upon the psychological well-being of minors," its 2003 decision in Interactive Digital Software Association v. St. Louis County demands a higher burden of proof.

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