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Fwd: CDA STRUCK DOWN BY SUPREME COURT, from the Netly News
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- Date: Thu, 26 Jun 97 19:00:47 +0200
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>From: Declan McCullagh <email@example.com>
>Subject: CDA STRUCK DOWN BY SUPREME COURT, from the Netly News
>Date: Thu, 26 Jun 1997 09:41:03 -0700 (PDT)
[Check out netlynews.com for updates throughout the day. --Declan]
The Netly News
CDA STRUCK DOWN!
June 26, 1997, 11:30 am
by Declan McCullagh (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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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