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[FYI] Trial Could Put Net Censorship Back On Track


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Trial Could Put Net Censorship Back On Track 
By Mary Mosquera, TechWeb
Feb 2, 1999 (1:12 PM)
URL: http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19990202S0007 

A federal judge may have quashed enforcement of an Internet censorship
law -- but not for long, said an attorney Tuesday who wrote a brief in
its support. The Child Online Protection Act has a good chance of
prevailing if the government opts to test it in court, said Bruce
Taylor, president and chief counsel for the National Law Center for
Children and Families, a group that offers legal assistance in cases
involving child-pornography laws. 

U.S. District Court Judge Lowell Reed Jr. issued a preliminary
injunction Monday blocking the law, but the Justice Department could
appeal the injunction or open up the law for a trial on its merits.

Reed depicted the case in his ruling as pitting the Constitution
against society's protection of its children, but said the majority's
will was not to be "at the expense of stifling the rights embodied in
the Constitution." The opposing groups established a strong enough
case they were likely to win on the merits, the judge wrote. 

"The Child Online Protection Act will be found constitutional," Taylor
said. A jury would be more sympathetic to the protection law than a
judge reading what attorneys put in the record, he said. 

The American Civil Liberties Union led the challenge on behalf of 17
Internet sites against the Child Online Protection Act, or COPA,
passed by Congress last fall. The law was designed to protect children
from materials that are allegedly harmful to minors. 

"Protection is a shared responsibility between parents, the technology
community, and the legal community." -- Donna Rice Hughes Enough is

The law is similar to -- but more limited than -- the Communications
Decency Act, struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997.

By blocking the federal law, the judge agreed with the civil-liberties
groups that there are less-restrictive means to protect children
online, said Ari Schwartz, policy analyst for the Center for Democracy
and Technology, an activist group in Washington, D.C. The
civil-liberties group encourages Internet filters and other tools that
can be used by parents and educators, Schwartz said, as long as it is
not mandated by the government. 

A federal law is necessary to help protect children on the Internet,
said Donna Rice Hughes, spokeswoman for Enough is Enough, which
advocates safety initiatives for children online. "Protection is a
shared responsibility between parents, the technology community, and
the legal community," she said.


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