Online pornography law appeal denied
Wed Jan 21, 2009 7:13pm GMT
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court let stand on Wednesday a ruling that a federal law designed to keep Internet pornography away from children violated constitutional free-speech rights.
The high court rejected a Justice Department appeal defending the law and handed a victory to those who argued that the efforts of Congress to regulate cyberspace by keeping minors away from online pornography infringed on free-speech rights.
The law in question required that website operators use credit cards or adult access codes and personal identification numbers to keep minors from seeing harmful pornography. Violators faced up to six months in prison and fines of as much as $50,000 a day.
It was adopted in 1998 after the Supreme Court struck down on free-speech grounds another law called the Communications Decency Act. The law has never been enforced as lower courts repeatedly have ruled it unconstitutional.
The Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court after a U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia declared the law unconstitutional for being overly broad and too vague.
The appeals court also ruled the law violates free-speech guarantees under the Constitution's First Amendment because filtering technologies and other parental control tools offer a less restrictive way to protect children from inappropriate content online.
The law was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, booksellers, online magazine publishers and others. ACLU lawyers said the law criminalizes a large amount of valuable online speech that adults are entitled to communicate and receive.
According to the government's experts in the case, the law could criminalize as many as 700 million Web pages, they said. The lawyers said the use of content filters would be more effective.
The Supreme Court refused to hear the Justice Department's appeal without any comment, allowing the appeals court ruling to stand.
(Editing by David Wiessler)
© Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of Thomson Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters and its logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Thomson Reuters group of companies around the world.
Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.