Tuesday, July 22, 2008
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NYCLU, National Coalition Against Censorship claim video game bill violates 1st Amendment

NEW YORK - The New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Coalition Against Censorship Monday urged Governor David Paterson to veto legislation that would establish a state system for regulating the sale and content of video games.

“New Yorkers do not need the state judging which video games are appropriate and which aren’t,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Parents, not government committees, should be responsible for making those judgments. If the legislature wants to reduce youth violence, it should fund educational programs to teach students conflict resolution skills.”

In a letter sent to the governor, the NYCLU and NCAC explain that the bill would directly involve the state in regulating constitutionally protected content in violation of the First Amendment.

If signed, the bill would bar retailers from selling or renting any video game unless its rating is prominently displayed on the game’s cover.  Additionally, the bill would establish a state “advisory council” to review the video game industry’s existing voluntary ratings system for accuracy and effectiveness in identifying violent content.  The bill also would require all video game consoles sold in New York to have technology allowing parents to block video games that depict certain vaguely described content.

Read together, these provisions would create a state system regulating how video games are sold and played based on content that the First Amendment protects from regulation.