Federal judge hears arguments over Indianapolis' video game law
By The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS Indianapolis' new ban on violent video games
received its first courthouse test Sept. 15 as the judge and lawyers
A law student demonstrated the games Mortal Kombat 3 and SilentScope 2
as U.S. District Court Judge David Hamilton, lawyers and spectators looked
Videotape of scenes from other violent video games also was shown
during the hearing in which Hamilton heard arguments from industry groups
challenging the new city ordinance and from attorneys for the city defending
Hamilton said after the hearing that he would rule later on the
legality of the ban.
The City-County Council passed the ordinance July 10, requiring arcade
owners to restrict the access minors have to the most violent games.
Groups representing the pay-for-play video game industry
including manufacturers, distributors and arcade owners sued on Aug.
21, claiming the ordinance is unconstitutional. They are seeking a preliminary
injunction to stop it from taking effect.
A. Scott Chinn, corporation counsel for the city, said last week's
hearing was certain to be just the first round in a lengthy litigation.
The violent video game ban was Mayor Bart Peterson's first legislative
initiative. The Democratic mayor last year established his commitment to family
values by campaigning for the regulation of violent video arcade games. Once in
office, his first executive order called for the removal of such games from
city property, and the contested ordinance was the first one he proposed.
The city hired Baker & Daniels, the city's second-largest law
firm, to help draw up the law so that it could withstand legal scrutiny. The
firm's attorneys are defending the ordinance in federal court.
The city's ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind, requires
arcade owners to limit access to games that depict any of 11 activities,
including amputation, decapitation, dismemberment, bloodshed or sexual
intercourse. Children 17 years and younger can play such games only with
permission of an accompanying parent or guardian.
No one can say with certainty that the ban is constitutional. The
Supreme Court has not ruled on whether the violent video games being produced
today are protected speech, said Kenneth Falk of the Indiana Civil Liberties
Union. The ICLU is not a party to the suit.
"Once you change the First Amendment from saying 'Congress shall make
no law abridging the freedom of speech' to 'In certain cases, Congress can make
laws' then you're surrendering the whole notion of the First Amendment," Falk
But the city says these are games that are no more protected under the
First Amendment than Universal Studios' Jurassic Park roller coaster ride,
which is based on a book. That was the city's first line of defense in its
written arguments to Hamilton. Its attorneys then argue that the ordinance
doesn't apply to video games that rely on extensive story lines.
Finally, they insist that even if the games are ruled to be free
speech, graphic violence is a form of obscenity. And the Supreme Court has
allowed obscenity to be regulated, particularly when it comes to minors.
Chin said the city doesn't need to prove a clear link between the
games and violent behavior.
The arcade industry argues just as forcefully that the games are free
speech, and says the ordinance is too vague to enforce.
Federal appeals court puts Indianapolis video game law on hold
7th Circuit judge grants industry request for stay of judge's Oct. 11 order allowing ordinance to take effect.
Federal judge: Indianapolis video game ordinance can take effect
Law doesn't engage in viewpoint discrimination, doesn't limit expression of ideas, judge says in preliminary ruling.
Industry groups challenge Indianapolis violent video game law
'We are on the edge of a slippery slope, and our industry has been forced to litigate to protect core constitutional rights,' says association president.
Arkansas legislators hope to defeat violent video games
Measure would establish rating system, criminal penalties for people who provide such games to minors.
Connecticut woman sues video game maker after son's death
Noah Wilson, 13, died in 1997 after he and friend imitated 'Mortal Kombat' fight scene.