Group Calls for COPA’s Overturn on Free-Speech Grounds

WASHINGTON - The Center for Democracy and Technology filed a "friend of the court" brief in a federal appeals court last week, claiming that the Child Online Protection Act violates the First Amendment.

The amicus brief, presented to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on behalf of CDT and 17 other groups, claims that COPA places unconstitutional burdens on creators and distributors of legitimate Web content, including websites focusing on sexual identity, health and art. CDT also claims that COPA is vague and could affect legitimate speakers rather than undefined "commercial pornographers."

"Given the past decisions from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in this case, it is widely expected that the court will agree with the CDT's position that COPA is unconstitutional," First Amendment attorney Lawrence Walters told AVN Online. "One of the big problems with the statute is that it requires the application of local community standards to Internet content when determining whether the statute's prohibitions apply."

According to the CDT, strategies such as encouraging parents to use technological restraints and educating children about safe online practices are more effective and fitting ways to protect children. Such methods place fewer restrictions on adult speech and can be customized according to individual families' values, the group said.

"We strongly believe in the legal arguments set forth in the CDT's amicus brief," Gary Jay Kaufman of The Kaufman Law Group told AVN Online. "It's been nine years since the injunction against COPA's enforcement was issued, and the district court's original reasoning remains sound: It is the parents' responsibility to supervise and control what their children see or don't see on the Internet. ... Adults should be able to view anything they want in the privacy of their own homes.

 "Hopefully, the 3rd Circuit [Court of Appeals] will continue to recognize the seriousness of this concern and encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify this issue once and for all. The uncertainty in this realm has led to a variety of inconsistent rulings across the country, as to the scope of the community that must be considered in obscenity or harmful-materials cases."