U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Revive Internet Pornography Measure
By Greg Stohrhttp:Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) --
The U.S. Supreme Court, rejecting a Bush administration appeal, refused to resurrect a federal criminal law that would have punished people for making pornography available to children through commercial Web sites.
The justices, without comment, today let stand a federal appeals court ruling that the 1998 Child Online Protection Act runs afoul of constitutional free speech protections. ******
The Bush administration argued in its appeal that the lower court ruling “would leave millions of children unprotected from the harmful effects of the enormous amount of pornography on the World Wide Web.” The Supreme Court in 2004 stopped the law from taking effect, ruling that the measure may unduly restrict adult access to constitutionally protected material.
The 5-4 ruling said that blocking and filtering software might be a less restrictive and more effective way to limit youth access to online smut. That decision sent the case back to the lower court level to consider the effectiveness of filters in more detail.
The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately concluded that filters “are more effective” than the law because they give parents more flexibility and can block foreign Web sites.
Use of Filters
In its appeal, the Bush administration said half of U.S. households with children and Internet access don’t use filters. For children in those homes, “filters alone are not an alternative at all, much less a more effective one,” the government argued.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which led the challenge to the law, urged the Supreme Court not to get involved. The group said filters “are more effective than a criminal statute that does not reach overseas sites, non-commercial or non-Web- based speech.”
COPA, as the law is known, would have required commercial Web site operators who displayed pornography to screen out children by requiring a credit card number or adult access code.
Violators would have faced up to six months in jail. The statute barred making available to children under age 17 material that appeals to “prurient interest” and “lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.”
The statute would have applied to commercial Web sites that carry pornography in the “regular course” of business.
E-mail, newsgroups and chat rooms were exempted.
The justices also considered COPA in 2002, when a splintered court rejected a challenge that relied on a different legal theory. COPA marked Congress’s second attempt to cordon off minors from sexually explicit pictures, videos and writings on the Internet.
The Supreme Court struck down an earlier law, known as the Communications Decency Act, in 1997. The case is Mukasey v. ACLU, 08-565.
******It only takes four justices to agree to hear a case. In this matter, there were not four who wanted to hear it. We do not know the vote as it is secret and they did not publish any further information.
Patrick A. Trueman
Attorney At Law