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Home > SPJ News > SPJ supports fight against California law restricting free speech

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SPJ supports fight against California law restricting free speech


9/17/2010



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For Immediate Release:

Contacts:
Kevin Smith, SPJ President, (304) 365-4864, ksmith@spj.org
Andrew M. Scott, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 215, ascott@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists has joined an amicus brief in support of the Entertainment Merchants Association, a non-profit international trade group seeking to strike down a California law that could place an additional restriction on free speech.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Nov. 2 in Entertainment Merchants Association v. Schwarzenegger regarding a 2005 California law enforcing restrictions and labeling requirements on the sale or rental of "violent video games" to minors under 18.

The Court’s decision whether to protect violent speech will have much larger implications as it will consider limiting the First Amendment by an additional exception.

Drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the amicus brief urges the Court to embrace a broad interpretation of First Amendment protections trumpeted in U.S. v. Stevens. It further argues that the Court should not eliminate First Amendment protection for violent speech just because new media has brought it to the forefront of the public’s mind. Finally, the brief explains the negative implications of a violent speech exception for journalists.

SPJ’s support of EMA’s effort shows the Court journalists’ concern over the impact a more limited First Amendment will have on their ability to report on the news. The Reporters Committee filed the brief Sept. 17.

The state law in question defines violent games as those “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a way that is “patently offensive”; appeals to minors’ “deviant or morbid interests”; and is deficient in “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

A federal trial court struck down the law in 2007 and held that without sexual content, violence alone is protected by the First Amendment. In February 2009, the federal court of appeals affirmed the decision, holding that violent video games do not constitute “obscenity” under the First Amendment and that the state did not provide compelling evidence in preventing psychological or neurological harm to minors allegedly caused by video games.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.

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