A federal judge on Monday blocked a new state law that would have prohibited the sale of violent video games to children.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte found that the law was unconstitutional, echoing a recent string of rulings in other states where similar laws were struck down after challenges by video game industry groups.
The law prohibits the sale or rental of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18 and requires that such games be clearly labeled. Retailers who violated the act would be fined up to $1,000 for each violation.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the law in 2005, vowed to appeal.
"Many of these games are made for adults, and choosing games that are appropriate for kids should be a decision made by their parents," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "I will vigorously defend this law and appeal it to the next level."
The law had been on hold since the Video Software Dealers Association and the Entertainment Software Association sued California officials, asking that it be overturned on the grounds that such games are protected forms of expression under the First Amendment.
Whyte agreed with their arguments in a 17-page ruling, saying that some of the terms of violence in the law were too broad. He also said the law's proponents failed to show a concrete link between video games and children's behavior, or that violence in games was any more harmful than what could be found in other media, such as television, movies or the Internet.
"The court, although sympathetic to what the legislature sought to do by the Act, finds that the evidence does not establish the required nexus between the legislative concerns about the well-being of minors and the restrictions on speech required by the Act," Whyte wrote.
Also, the judge noted, the video game industry already has a ratings labeling system intended to warn parents.
Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco, who was an assemblyman when he authored the law, said he was shocked by the court's decision against the "common-sense law."
Yee, also a child psychologist, cited recent Federal Trade Commission studies suggesting that the video game industry's rating system was not effective in blocking minors from purchasing M-rated, or mature-rated games designed for adults.