View Full Version : Supreme Court deals death blow to antiporn law

Jan 21, 2009, 04:26 PM
The U.S. Department of Justice has been trying since 1998 to convince courts that a federal antiporn law targeting sexually explicit Web sites was constitutional.

No longer. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected prosecutors' last-ditch defense of the Child Online Protection Act, meaning that the law will not be enforced.

COPA was enacted during the anti-Internet porn scares of the late 1990s, in part as a narrower answer to a previous Net censorship law that also met its demise in the courts. Any commercial Web site operator that posts "material that is harmful to minors" faces six months in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the law in Philadelphia, saying the prohibition was so broad and vague that even traditional publishers could face fines and imprisonment. Plaintiffs included Salon.com, which occasionally publishes racy material, the California-based lesbian-gay A Different Light Bookstore, PlanetOut, and a now-defunct coalition that included CNET Networks (publisher of CNET News), The New York Times Co., and Reuters. (A CNET executive testified against the law in January 1999.)

"It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet," ACLU staff attorney Chris Hansen said in a statement on Wednesday. "Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families."

As a side note, it was the Justice Department's ongoing defense of COPA in 2006 that led to its subpoena to Google asking for a "random sampling" of 1 million Internet addresses accessible through Google's popular search engine and a random sampling of 1 million search queries submitted to Google over a one-week period.

Since the initial proceedings, the case has bounced around the court system without reaching a resolution. During that time, the Supreme Court handed down two preliminary rulings, once in 2002 and again in 2004.

The first time, it sent the case back to an appeals court with instructions to broaden its legal analysis beyond the law's interaction with community standards; the second time, it wanted a review of whether "technological developments" have affected the law's constitutionality.

The Supreme Court's 2004 ruling against the Justice Department and in favor of the ACLU commanded a narrow 5-4 majority, with justices Stephen Breyer, William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor, and (separately) Antonin Scalia dissenting.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, upheld a temporary injunction barring prosecutors from enforcing COPA.

Jan 21, 2009, 05:20 PM
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10147171-38.htmlIt is good to see sanity and free will is still alive and well in America

Jan 22, 2009, 12:35 AM
Whew. *restores the collection from a backup*

william sire
Jan 22, 2009, 12:45 AM
I guess this means parent will have to do their job instead of throwing the responsibility on the state.

Jan 22, 2009, 03:54 AM
I guess this means parent will have to do their job instead of throwing the responsibility on the state.

Heaven forbid. Don't go bandying that about though, they might go and reverse their decision!


Jan 22, 2009, 04:29 AM
We haven't seen the last of the COPA prosecutions, and though this is a major setback, the Supremes will definitely have their hands full with future censorship attempts in sheep's clothing. Whether I agree with online pornography or not, is not the issue; it's anyone's attempt to force censorship upon me, my neighbor or anyone utilizing the internet b/c they are offended by their idea of pornography...

Jan 22, 2009, 04:12 PM
People are not just offended by porn but of nakedness in general.