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Electronic Games & the First Amendment

Thomas Rousse

Northwestern University

June 7, 2011

Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 2011

Prompted by the upcoming Supreme Court case Brown v. EMA (formerly Schwarzenegger v. EMA), this article explores the case history of electronic game censorship, the history of new media regulation, and how significant free speech theories can be applied to electronic games. In Brown v. EMA and similar cases, lawmakers have attempted to regulate electronic games based on their violent content, while earlier cases refused to consider electronic games as speech at all. This paper advocates a structuralist analysis of media, the expressive germ perspective, to determine which media should be considered speech. By focusing on the capabilities rather than the content of nascent media, courts can avoid misclassifying rightfully protected expression due to cultural prejudice or unfamiliarity with new media. Ultimately, this paper broadens the discussion raised by Brown v. EMA to interrogate our judiciary's failure to protect media in their formative stages and fulfill the anti-majoritarian goals of the First Amendment.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 61

Keywords: free speech, electronic games, first amendment, Brown v. EMA, Schwarzenegger v. EMA, River City effect, censorship, video games, individual self realization, expressive germ perspective

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Date posted: June 21, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Rousse, Thomas, Electronic Games & the First Amendment (June 7, 2011). Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1868759

Contact Information

Thomas Rousse (Contact Author)
Northwestern University ( email )
2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
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