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"Intense lobbying" in US industry Supreme Court case

Battle lines are being drawn as Schwarzenegger vs the EMA/ESA reaches a crucial stage

An "intense lobbying effort" is underway in the US as the deadline for filing briefs either for or against the state of California's law banning the rental or sale of violent videogames to minors looms.

According to a report on Law.com only 11 states have signed up in support of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's stance, when up to 40 would normally be expected in a child protection case with the Supreme Court set to rule on whether or not the law breaks the country's First Amendment.

That part of the Constitution states that: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) and Entertainment Software Association (ESA) are challenging the California law on the freedom of speech issue, and the industry in the US seems confident of support.

"We wouldn't be surprised if the number [of states siding with the industry] was equal or exceeded the number [backing California]," said Activision Blizzard EVP and chief public policy officer George Rose.

The report also suggests that Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff is drafting the brief in support of the EMA and ESA, and has been interceding with other states on the industry's behalf - apparently based on concerns that if the law stands, the content of videogames could be seen as a valid defence in the courts for criminal action.

The ESA's Dan Hewitt hasn't confirmed or denied the speculation, but released a statement noting that "a number of organisations, associations, elected officials and others are considering participating in this case by filing amicus briefs.

"We're encouraged by the broad range of support already shown from individuals and groups across the political and ideological spectrum."

The situation contrasts with that in the UK, where the sale of adult-themed games is restricted by law; currently based on certification by the BBFC, but set to move over to a publisher-run PEGI scheme next year.

Image courtesy of Dale Frost, used under Wikimedia Commons license.

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