Posted By Jeff on January 21, 2009
The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to revive and review the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), apparently ending a battle that began in 1998. COPA, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton, never went into effect. The law would have barred Web sites from making “harmful content” available to minors over the Internet; if broadly construed, it could have had the effect of criminalizing the publication of any material on the ‘Net not suitable for children.
Which includes porn and and anything anyone might choose to post on their own adult profile, of course. COPA was found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in Philadelphia in what was (and is) a landmark First Amendment case regarding online content, along with that of its predecessor, the Communications Decency Act, ruled unconstitutional in 1997.
I have about half a chapter of “Into Temptation” devoted to COPA, having been on the periphery of the battle back then. I was involved in the management of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) … even the most conservative of the people I worked with were horrified at the idea that Congress would attempt to place such draconian limits on freedom of expression.
Here are a few of hundreds of stories from around the web:
- In Big Win for Online Adult, U.S. Justices Won’t Hear COPA (XBiz)
- Justices refuse to reconsider law restricting Internet porn (CNN)
- Justices Reject Pornography Law (New York Times)
The Bush administration had flogged this particular dead horse for years (my apologies for that graphic cliche, but the Bushies always seemed more at home with gratuitous violence than they did with sex.) My only regret is that now we’ll never know if an Obama Justice Department would have pulled away from supporting COPA …
There will be other issues along the way where our new president can demonstrate not just his knowledge of the Constitution but his standfast support for it. Even — and especially — when it is not expedient.