July 27, 2005 | By Derek Slater

Senator Clinton, Burned by "Hot Coffee," Proposes Grand Theft of Free Speech

Recently, Rockstar Games got into hot water after people who play its already-controversial game, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," discovered how to unlock a sexually graphic mini-game known as "Hot Coffee." Rockstar's parent, Take Two Interactive, has admitted to creating the hidden portion, and, under pressure, decided to pull the game off store shelves in anticipation of a "caffeine-free" version to be released this fall. In the meantime, Senator Hillary Clinton has vowed to introduce legislation that would fine retailers for selling minors video games that the industry rates as "mature" or "adults only."

Of course, the Senator's proposed video game censorship bill would violate the First Amendment. While courts have found that some sexual content is "harmful to minors," and that distribution of such material to children can be regulated, courts have also repeatedly held that violent speech, be it in video games or other media, is fully protected by the First Amendment. Courts have also repeatedly found that government enforcement of private ratings schemes (like the MPAA's ratings for films) is plainly unconstitutional. Video games are no different.

Senator Clinton, being a lawyer herself, knows that her proposed bill would immediately be challenged and struck down if ever signed into law -- just like every similar bill that has been passed by city councils and state legislatures, only to be followed by a video game industry lawsuit the next day. In fact, the industry filed its latest sure-to-win First Amendment challenge just this week to fight an Illinois law regulating violent video games.

Unfortunately, it's we the taxpayers who have to bear the cost of defending these politically motivated, certainly unconstitutional laws in court. And as long as politicians can make hay of the supposed "harm" caused to our younger citizens by violent and sexually explicit speech, they will be an annoyingly persistent part of the political landscape. But it's still worth writing your city council members and state and federal legislators. If your representatives have proposed a law like this, tell them that you're tired of time-wasting games -- the political kind.

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