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By coincidence the Stop Porn Culture conference and the US Supreme Court decision about violent videos came upon us at the same time. What caught our attention was that although the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that states can legally keep pornography from youngsters, it has now ruled states cannot keep violent video games from them.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the court’s majority decision in the video game case. Among other things, he wrote “Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.” And later: “No doubt a State possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm… but that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”
That last part did strike us as running counter to the assumptions behind the Supreme Court’s permitting a ban on, say, video depictions of sexual acts being shown to the very young. In perhaps the most important case involving children and their access to pornography (Ashcroft vs. ACLU, 00-1293) the court ruled 8 to 1 in favor of using “community standards” as a measure for determining what material should be prohibited or regulated online.
A pornographic book or video can also “communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music)” yet those books and videos can be restricted using “community standards.” OK, we’ll stop now and admit we’re confused. As a matter of fact, Justice Scalia does go into the difference in legal standing between pornography and depictions of violence. Justice Scalia has never been one of our favorite Supreme Court justices, but his opinions are always interesting to read, and if you’d like to read his opinion, please click on this link http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/08-1448.pdf
Speaking of libraries, as we were in the post below this, we report the sad fact that the publishers HaperCollins has decided not to sell e-books to libraries but to rent them out. The publisher allows libraries to let an e-book circulate only 26 times before the library must again pay to rent it for another 26 times. If it were a conventional book, the library would buy it and allow it to circulate among library patrons until it needed to be replaced, at which point the library would buy a fresh copy. Now HaperCollins wants to sell a lot of copies to libraries, so it has decided, arbitrarily and whimsically, that the e-book wears out after it’s been read 26 times. Libraries, which are publically funded and never rich, have complained about this. One example —the Upper Hudson Library System, a consortium of libraries in New York State — has sent a public letter to HaperCollins protesting this whacky arrangement and “will no longer purchase any e-content published by HarperCollins or any of its subsidiary publishers.” You can check out the letter sent to HarperCollins by clicking on this link http://www.uhls.org/new/open_letter_HarperCollins.pdf