U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away on Saturday of natural causes. He was 79-years-old. Justice Scalia was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 in one of the least contentious confirmation processes in modern history. For gamers and the video games industry, Justice Scalia earned respect for writing the June 2011 decision for the 7-2 Supreme Court vote in Brown v. EMA. The short story is that the decision gave the video games industry First Amendment protection under the U.S. Constitution. The decision was related to the 2005 California video game law penned by former California State Senator Leland Yee.
In his 2011 decision Justice Scalia laid out why the 2005 law was unconstitutional; the law sought to fine retailers $1,000 (per instance) who sell video games to minors. It also sought to label video games with a “18” sticker to denote it was meant for consumers 18-years-old or older. A majority of the court – including Scalia – rejected the law.
You can read that decision here (PDF).
The Entertainment Software Association – the trade group that represents the video games industry in the United States (and the owner of the E3 tradeshow and the voluntary ratings system for video games) issued a statement to Polygon commenting on Justice Scalia’s passing:
“The Entertainment Software Association joins those who salute the service and mourn the loss of Justice Scalia. In 2011, when our industry defended the rights of creators and consumers of video games before the U.S. Supreme Court, it was Justice Scalia who authored the historic majority opinion,” the group said in a statement to Polygon. “He declared, with no ambiguity, that video games, like books, movies and other forms of expression, are deserving of First Amendment protections. It was a momentous day for our industry and those who love the entertainment we create and we are indebted to Justice Scalia for so eloquently defending the rights of creators and consumer everywhere.”
California State Senator Leland Yee, the author of the law at the center of the 2011 case, pleaded guilty to a number of federal charges last year, and could faces up to 20 years in prison. He is still awaiting sentencing.
Andrew Eisen and special guest Carol Pinchefsky talk briefly about Justice Scalia’s passing in the latest episode of Super Podcast Action Committee.
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