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>From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
>To: fight-censorship@vorlon.mit.edu
>Subject: CDA STRUCK DOWN BY SUPREME COURT, from the Netly News
>Date: Thu, 26 Jun 1997 09:41:03 -0700 (PDT)
>Message-Id: <Pine.GSO.3.95.970626094049.3126B-100000@well.com>

[Check out netlynews.com for updates throughout the day. --Declan]



The Netly News

June 26, 1997, 11:30 am
by Declan McCullagh (declan@well.com)
       The U.S. Supreme Court, in a landmark decision that firmly
   establishes unbridled free speech in cyberspace, struck
   down the Communications Decency Act. In a 40-page majority opinion
   opinion handed down this morning, the Justices determined that the act
   is unconstitutional. The court also resoundingly rejected the argument
   that broadcast standards should apply to the Internet.
       The Justices unanimously ruled that the so-called "display
   provision" -- which would effectively render the Net "child safe" --
   was patently unconstitutional. "The interest in encouraging freedom of
   expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but
   unproven benefit of censorship," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens. In a
   7-to-2 decision, the court also struck down the other half of the CDA,
   which banned "indecent transmission" to a minor. The minority
   argued that such a limitation would not interfere "with the First
   Amendment rights of adults." Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and William
   Rehnquist were the lone dissenters on that point in a 13-page minority

        "This is the landmark decision that many of us anticipated," said
   David Sobel, staff counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information
   Center and co-counsel on the case. Phil Gutis of the American Civil
   Liberties Union -- the lead plaintiff in Reno v. ACLU -- said the
   decision left no wriggle room for CDA supporters: "It's going to be
   very hard for Congress to go back and say the court left us this
   opening. They didn't."
        Yet CDA supporters promised to keep up the fight. Against the
   backdrop of a dozen anti-porn activists, Cathy Cleaver, the director
   of legal policy for the Family Research Council, proclaimed that,
   "today we're going to see the floodgates of pornography open on the
   internet. This is not a good time to be a child. We're not going to
   give up the fight to protect children online."
       In spite of such perceived dangers, the court apparently realized
   the unique nature of the Internet and appreciated the fact that it is
   a new and developing medium. "Neither before nor after the enactment
   of the CDA have the vast democratic fora of the Internet been subject
   to the type of government supervision and regulation that has attended
   the broadcast industry. Moreover, the Internet is not as 'invasive' as
   radio or television," the majority wrote. The CDA "threatens to torch
   a large segment of the Internet community."
        The chief congressional opponent of the CDA applauded the court's
   recognition that the Internet is wholly unlike broadcast media.
   "Giving full force to the first amendment online is a victory for the
   first amendment, for american technology, and for democracy," said
   Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a statement. "The CDA was misguided and
   unworkable. It reflected a fundamental misunderstanding of the
   technology of the Internet."

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