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Dismissal of video game lawsuit upheld on appeal

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  1. Libel and Privacy

    NMU         KENTUCKY         Privacy         Aug 15, 2002    

Dismissal of video game lawsuit upheld on appeal

  • The dismissal of a suit that claimed violent media helped influence a 14-year-old to shoot his classmates was proper, an appellate court ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati (6th Cir.) has upheld a lower court ruling that said companies producing video games, movies and Internet sites with violent content could not be held liable for deaths in a 1997 school shooting in West Paducah, Ky.

The ruling, handed down Aug. 13, cited in part the First Amendment rights of the defendants, which included Nintendo, Sega, Sony Computer Entertainment, Id Software and Meow Media Inc.

“Courts have made it clear that attaching tort liability to protected speech can violate the First Amendment,” according to the unanimous decision.

The families of three Heath High School students killed by ninth-grader Michael Carneal, also a student at the West Paducah school, filed suit in April 1999. The parents said the 14-year-old had been influenced by violent movies including “Basketball Diaries,” Internet sites such as www.persiankitty.com, and several video games that prompt players to shoot characters in the games.

The suit claimed that video games such as Doom, Quake and Final Fantasy “trained Carneal to point and shoot a gun in a fashion making him an . . . effective killer without teaching him any of the constraints or responsibilities needed to inhibit such a killing capacity.”

The U.S. District Court in Paducah dismissed the case in April 2000. That court said in part that “attaching tort liability to the effect that such ideas have on a criminal actor would raise significant constitutional problems under the First Amendment that ought to be avoided.”

The lower court also said, and the appeals court agreed, that the defendants “were under no duty to protect [the three murdered students] from Carneal’s actions.”

(James v. Meow Media, Inc.; Defense Counsel: Michael Breen, Bowling Green, Ky.) JE


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