News Release: Faculty Experts, Law

Jun. 30,  2011

Supreme Court Continues Strong Protection of Free Speech in Recent Ruling, Says Law Expert

The United States Supreme Court struck down a California law that penalized selling or renting violent video games to minors without a parent's consent, ruling the law violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The decision came on the final day of the term and the result was not unexpected, says Emory University law professor and First Amendment expert Julie Seaman, who specializes in issues involving hate speech. “The decision to strike down the California statute is well in line with the strong protection of free speech in other decisions by the Roberts Court,” Seaman says.

“[In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association] the Court makes it very clear that it will not accept any analogy of violence to obscenity for purposes of speech regulation.  Many advocates of regulation of violent content, including hate speech, have argued that the unprotected category of obscene speech should be understood to include violent speech,” she explains. “The Court roundly rejects any such reasoning and reiterates that only sexual speech counts as obscenity under the First Amendment.  The opinion specifically references ‘hate speech’ in the form of video games in which players engage in ‘ethnic cleansing,’ and finds them protected speech, even as to children.” 

This is the latest in a number of free speech cases the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the First Amendment. Others include the funeral protests case and animal crush videos case.  

Hear Julie Seaman discuss recent First Amendment cases


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