Evolving Entertainment Technology: Can New Types of Fun Lead to New Types of Liability

Jennifer Jones
13 Yale J.L. & Tech. 188

The proliferation of mass-market entertainment in the late 20th century saw the emergence of "violent-entertainment cases" - claims alleging that producers of entertainment have some type of duty to prevent the consumers of their violent media from causing harm. With one notable exception, each and every one of these twenty or so claims has been dismissed. Courts have almost unanimously held that there either exists no such duty or that the entertainment in question is protected expression under the First Amendment. But will courts continue to so hold? Overwhelming technological advances in both the software and the hardware behind the entertainment industry have transformed the modern entertainment landscape into one characterized by immersion and pervasiveness - it is now technologically possible to be fully immersed in the entertainment experience, anywhere, all the time. Such technological advances in entertainment have the potential to so significantly alter the type of entertainment produced that certain types of entertainment could potentially lose First Amendment protection. That is, modern entertainment technology-interactive in home gaming, realistic looking avatars, 3D projection, etc.-could potentially facilitate expression that could constitute unprotected incitement under Brandenburg. However, although modern technology could enable the producers of mainstream entertainment to cross a line from simply displaying violence into facilitating violence, whether entertainment producers will actually produce violent content that utilizes these new technological developments in inappropriate ways remains to be seen.