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Supreme Court weighs ban on violent video games

The Supreme Court will decide whether free speech rights are more important than helping parents keep violent material away from children.

The justices agreed to consider reinstating California's ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, a law the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco threw out last year on grounds that it violated minors' constitutional rights.

The California law never took effect and was challenged shortly after it was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A U.S. District Court blocked it after the industry sued the state, citing constitutional concerns.

According to the California law, the sale or rental of violent games - those that include "killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being" - is prohibited to anyone under 18. It also requires strict labeling for video game manufacturers. The law calls for fines of up to $1,000 for each violation.

The judge who wrote the decision overturning the law said at the time that there was no research showing a connection between violent video games and psychological harm to young people.

The Supreme Court's decision to hear the case comes only a week after the high court voted overwhelmingly to strike down a federal law banning so-called "crush videos" showing animal cruelty.

Schwarzenegger, who signed the measure into law in 2005, said he was pleased the high court would review the appeals court decision. He said, "We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultraviolent actions, just as we already do with movies."

Lawyer Stephen S. Smith, who has represented several video game companies in court, said the Supreme Court may use this case to explain how far lawmakers can go when trying to regulate depictions of violence.

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