"Court Venture Into Cyberspace"
(This article is Copyright 1997 by the Associated Press. I am showing it here for reference use only--as I have the right to do under the fair use clause of US Copyright law--so that you can see the primary source for my proposed op-ed. Please don't make things complicated for me by using this article in some unauthorized way --whatever that may be.)
March 19, 1997
Court Venture Into Cyberspace
Filed at 2:45 a.m. EST
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Taking a first look at free speech on the Internet,
the Supreme Court is considering whether Congress can make it
a crime to put indecent words or pictures online where children can find
Parents who want to keep sexually explicit material away from their kids
might be scared away from the Internet without the restrictions, the
Clinton administration says in asking the high court to uphold the
Communications Decency Act.
But those who challenged the 1996 law say it violates adults' free-speech
right to send and receive material that is sexually oriented -- but not
obscene -- on the global computer network.
``The law bans a vast range of speech, all of which is constitutionally
protected for adults,'' says Bruce J. Ennis, the lawyer arguing the case for
challengers including the American Library Association and the American
Civil Liberties Union.
A three-judge federal court in Philadelphia blocked the law from taking
effect last year, saying it would unlawfully chill adults' right to sexually
The case is the first venture into cyberspace law by the Supreme Court,
which still presents quill pens to lawyers who argue before it and bans
cameras and tape-recorders from the stately courtroom. A decision is
expected by July.
In court papers, the Justice Department said Congress ``sought to make
the Internet a resource that all Americans could use without fear that their
children would be exposed to the harmful effects of indecent material.''
The Internet was described by a lower-court judge as a ``never-ending
worldwide conversation'' that has produced ``a kind of chaos.''
The network is thought to connect as many as 40 million people using
more than 9.4 million computers worldwide.
The law makes it a crime to make ``indecent'' or ``patently offensive''
words of pictures available online where they can be found by children.
Violators could get up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Sexually explicit material is protected by the Constitution's First
Amendment if it is deemed indecent but not obscene.
The law would not affect indecent material sent from computers outside
the United States.
Indecent material could be provided by restricting access to people using
a credit card or adult-access code. But those who challenged the law said
that would be too expensive, particularly for nonprofit organizations.
The challengers said the law would restrict access not only to sexually
explicit pictures, but to discussion of issues including safe sex,
homosexuality or prison rape.
The groups that sued include America Online, the American Society of
Newspaper Editors, Apple Computer and the AIDS Education Global
The case is Reno vs. American Civil Liberties Union, 96-511.