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Supreme Court Rules on Challenge to COPA 298

Publiux writes: "LawMeme is reporting today that the Supreme Court upheld portions of the Child Online Protection Act because using community standards to determine what could be harmful to minors was not overly broad and thus not unconstitutional. Before you stop spreading your 'sexually explicit material' online, a lower court still has to determine if the law is unconstitutional for other reasons." Snibor Eoj submits this link to coverage at Yahoo! as well. Other readers link to AP coverage running at NandoTimes and the decision itself (PDF).
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Supreme Court Rules on Challenge to COPA

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  • Re:A Good Thing (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:01PM (#3511108)
    And why is that?

    What makes kiddie porn worse than any other kind of porn? A few centuries ago it was commonplace to marry 13 year old girls and have children with them and look where it got us. Alexander the Great was a 16 years old emperor.

  • by _LORAX_ ( 4790 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:09PM (#3511145) Homepage

    Held:COPAs reliance on community standards to identify what material is harmful to minors does not by itself render the statute substantially overbroad for First Amendment purposes. The Court, however, expresses no view as to whether COPA suffers from substantial overbreadth for reasons other than its use of community standards, whether the statute is unconstitutionally vague, or whether the statute survives strict scrutiny. Prudence dictates allowing the Third Circuit to first examine these difficult issues. Because petitioner did not ask to have the preliminary injunction vacated, and because this Court could not do so without addressing matters the Third Circuit has yet to consider, the Government remains enjoined from enforcing COPA absent further action by the lower courts. P. 22.

    Basicly the supreme court ruled against the ACLU's argument that the "community standards" were unconstitutional, but left the rest up to the lower coutrs to decide. This may bounce back to the supreme court at a later date, but for now it's been repremanded back to the federal circuit.

    The injunction is still in place which means that the law cannot be enforced currently.
  • by ekephart ( 256467 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:10PM (#3511152) Homepage
    Right, but freedom doesn't mean whatever, whenever, whoever. There is a reason why it is illegal to publish child pornography (yes I know that's not what the ruling was about). Same reason that a 13yr old boy can't walk into a beer store and by Playboy. The law states that parents' ability to police their children's activities online is becoming more and more difficult. It also says that as a result government has a responsilibity to help. It would be hard to stop Timmy from buying Playboy on the walk home from school, so there is a law to prevent him from doing so.

    No doubt, as the articles say, Congress did have good intentions here. It was aiming to make it difficult for children to get pornography even without their parents around - just like the beer store scenario. The problem here is that in the beer store the person working there can use his/her judgement and stop the child. Even with preventative measures on the Internet it would be similar to porn locked up in a case of sorts, no person working at the beer store, and the child possessing sufficient skills to pick the lock. The beer store could have a camera or some other security device that monitors the case, but on the Internet how would this be implemented? Would there be a system where each user is tracked where they go? I don't think so.

    Then what if the site is hosted outside the United States? Then, as one poster has laready said, what if the owner of the site vacations in Florida, will they be arrested?

    This law is messy. This subject is messy, and I don't have an answer.
  • by RailGunner ( 554645 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:24PM (#3511236) Journal
    First, our right to speech is granted (i.e., it is not presumed) by the Constitution

    Actually, the Constitution does not grant anyone any rights, nor was it ever intended to. The U.S. Constitution was written to limit the ability of the Government to infringe on your rights. The concept of your rights is not debatable, you have certain unalienable rights.

    Therefore, this speech is colored by the other contents of the Constitution, including the possibility of limiting "Such Speach as may be Found Hurtful to the Citizens of the Nation." I think this falls into the "hurtful" category pretty clearly. I'm not going to argue against this. Our children are too precious to sacrifice them at the altar of free speech.

    I'm not going to argue that exposing kids to hardcore pr0n isn't harmful... it is. However, I am going to argue that it's dangerous ground when we try to "insulate" kids from the realities of the world via legislation. Where do you draw the line of what is acceptable? Is non-sexual nudity OK?

    I feel the real issue of contention is this: It's not the Government's business what sites my children view. It's *MY* business, and as a parent it becomes my job to filter what my kids see on the Net, on TV, in games, at the movies, etc.

    It doesn't take a village to raise a child, or government, it takes parents who care.

  • by rossz ( 67331 ) <> on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:26PM (#3511258) Homepage Journal
    our right to speech is granted (i.e., it is not presumed) by the Constitution

    You could not be more wrong. The Bill of Rights reiterates some of the rights you are born with. It does not give you those rights. Those rights can not be taken away. The Constitution did not even mention those rights origially. They were added after the fact because of great concern about government abuse (those guys were pretty damn smart, in my opinion, and correctly guessed the future).

    Even if Congress tried to abolish the Constitution, we would still have those rights. We would also have a civil war.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:46PM (#3511387)
    The problem is not that parents don't want to watch their children, but that they can't. By law, parents must send their children to school, where they will be exposed to the Internet. Schools, of course, will install blocking software, but this software can't block all possible porn sites, and this is where the problem arises.

    This is not a free speech issue, either, because this bill restricts the access to minors - not adults. An adult can still view all of the porn he wants. What this bill attempts to do is to support those parents who don't want their children to view porn; nothing more. Nothing in the bill's language prevents parents from downloading explicit images and showing them to their children.

    What I find particularly insulting is that this is being framed as a free speech issue - it's not. Rather, the issue is whether or not the state has the authority to protect children, which it does, just as it has the authority to protect adults. Since children need more protection than adults, this bill is appropriate.

  • by Acoustic_Nowhere ( 521733 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:07PM (#3511539)
    Create a .sex domain. All sites dealing with pornographic materials must register under this new domain. I'm sure there must already exist appropriate definitions of pornography. Create a straightforward process where people can file for exemptions, for those grey areas.

    Parents/communities can then block out .sex access.

    I'd also go one step further and make it illegal for sending unsolicited mail that includes sexual/adult references/images/links. I can't believe that it's legal for these sex spammers to send links like this to email accounts that might be used by children.

  • by Seth Finkelstein ( 90154 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:20PM (#3511613) Homepage Journal
    This is worth pondering, from Justice Stevens' dissent:

    In the context of most other media, using community standards to differentiate between permissible and im- permissible speech has two virtues. As mentioned above, community standards originally served as a shield to protect speakers from the least tolerant members of society. By aggregating values at the community level, the Miller test eliminated the outliers at both ends of the spectrum and provided some predictability as to what constitutes obscene speech. But community standards also serve as a shield to protect audience members, by allowing people to self-sort based on their preferences. Those who abhor and those who tolerate sexually explicit speech can seek out like-minded people and settle in communities that share their views on what is acceptable for themselves and their children. This sorting mechanism, however, does not exist in cyberspace; the audience cannot self-segregate. As a result, in the context of the Internet this shield also becomes a sword, because the community that wishes to live without certain material not only rids itself, but the entire Internet of the offending speech.

    Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project ( []

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