Supreme Court Justice Who Ruled in Landmark Video Game Decision Dies

Antonin Scalia, the United States Supreme Court Justice who sided with the video game industry in a landmark 2011 case about violent video games, has died, GameSpot sister site CBS News reported. He was 79.

In June 2011, Scalia wrote the decision for the 7-2 Supreme Court vote that sided with the gaming industry in the case of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association.

Here’s an excerpt from the ruling, as written by Scalia:

“The most basic principle–that government lacks the power to restrict expression because of its message, ideas, subject matter, or content–is subject to a few limited exceptions for historically unprotected speech, such as obscenity, incitement, and fighting words. But a legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test.”

“Reading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat,” Scalia added. “But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones.”

You can read the Supreme Court’s full decision here.

The bill sought to ban the sale or rental of “violent video games” to children. A “violent” game was defined as a “game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.”

Under the law, retailers that sold such games would be subject to a $1,000 fine. The bill would also have required “violent” video games to bear a two-inch-by-two-inch sticker with a “solid white ’18’ outlined in black” on their front covers. That’s more than twice the size of the labels that currently adorn game-box covers and display the familiar Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating.

Scalia was nominated for the US Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. He was considered to be one of the most dedicated conservatives on the court. As CBS News reports, he was a proponent of “originalism,” the idea of interpreting the Constitution on the basis of what he believed its original authors intended.

For lots more on Scalia, check out this CBS News story and the 60 Minutes profile from 2008 above. He died today of natural causes at a West Texas resort, according to reports. His replacement on the high court has not yet been named.

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