Last week, the Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision in the Brown v. Entertainment Merchant’s Association case. Justice Scalia, writing for Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, held that a California law restricting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, and mandating “18” labels for such games, violates the First Amendment.
The decision is not only a resounding victory for the entertainment software industry, but its views on the protection of minors under the First Amendment could have a profound impact on future legislative efforts as well. In his dissent, Justice Thomas argued that the First Amendment does not include the right to speak to minors without obtaining the prior consent of their parents or guardians. This approach supports many of the children’s privacy laws that are on the books today. The majority soundly rejected this approach, however, stating that laws that prevent children from hearing or saying anything without their parents’ prior consent “do not enforce parental authority over children’s speech and religion; they impose governmental authority, subject only to a parental veto.”