Black Robes Speak!: July 2008
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Federal Appeals Court Finds COPA Unconstitutional. Why Can't Congress Get It Right?

Read more from the AP.

What is COPA?

It is the Child Online Protection Act. You can find the Act here, and the Appeals Court's decision here, and the lower court's decision here.

The Act imposes civil and criminal penalties on website operators for making sexually explicit materials available to minors over the Internet. The Act also requires adult websites to verify viewer age with a credit card number or any other reasonable method of age verification.

The court found that "because COPA is a content-based restriction on protected speech, it is presumptively invalid and the Government bears the burden of showing its constitutionality", which it failed to do in the case.

According to the court:

During oral argument, the Government contended that the First Amendment does not prohibit Congress from adopting a “belt-and-suspenders” approach to addressing the compelling government interest of protecting minors from accessing harmful material on the Web, with filters acting as the “belt” and COPA as the “suspenders.” But as counsel for plaintiffs correctly pointed out, under the First Amendment, if the belt works at least as effectively as the suspenders, then the Government cannot prosecute people for not wearing suspenders.

Editor's comment: Why can't government get it right, rather than handing the ACLU, which lauded the decision, victory after victory?!

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