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United States: Minnesota Video Game Law Struck Down

(Apr. 2, 2008) On March 17, 2008 the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld a permanent injunction of a Minnesota law which would have fined minors who purchased or rented video games labeled with a "mature" or "adult only" rating.

The court stated that under Eighth Circuit precedent, violent video games are protected free speech, their content protected in the same way that portrayals of violence in classical literature would be. As a result, a "strict scrutiny" analysis applied to determining whether the Minnesota law was constitutional, namely, whether the law "is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and . . . is narrowly tailored to achieve that end." The court agreed with the State of Minnesota that the state had a compelling interest in safeguarding the psychological well-being of minors. However, the court found that the state's evidence of the ill-effects of violent video games on minors did not meet the high standards required by the "strict scrutiny" test, quoting the United States Supreme Court: "Where first amendment rights are at stake, the Government must present more than anecdote and supposition." (Entertainment Software Association v. Swanson (8th Cir. March 17, 2008), available at http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/08/03/063217P.pdf.)