cr> ACLU Cyber-Liberties Update: 3/1/96


Richard Moore

Date: Sun, 3 Mar 1996
Sender: •••@••.••• (Ann Beeson)
Subject: ACLU Cyber-Liberties Update:  3/1/96

March 1, 1996
A bi-weekly (usually) e-zine on cyber-liberties cases and controversies at
the state and federal level.

*  CDA Litigation Update -- Hearing in _ACLU v. Reno_ Set for Late March

*  ACTION ALERT:  The Big Chill -- Tell Us Your Story of Speech Chilled by
the CDA

*  Magician "Teller" Reaches Janet Reno on the Phone, Tells Her Not to
Enforce the CDA!

*  Law Students Organize a Nationwide "Silent Protest" Day Against the CDA

*  Washington State Censorship Bill is DEAD AGAIN

FEDERAL PAGE (Congress/Agency/Court Cases)
*  CDA Litigation Update -- Hearing in _ACLU v. Reno_ Set for Late March

The ACLU's battle for a quick overturn by the courts of the
unconstitutional Communications Decency Act is in full force.  Thanks to
all who continue to inspire and support us during this critical case for
free speech in cyberspace!  Significant developments and dates in the _ACLU
v. Reno_ case are summarized below:

  2/8     Clinton signs Telecommunications Bill; ACLU immediately files
suit in federal court in Philadelphia on behalf of twenty plaintiffs to
challenge the constitutionality of the "indecency" and "patently offensive"
provisions of the CDA.  Electronic Privacy Information Center and
Electronic Frontier Foundation are co-counsel and plaintiffs in the case.
The other plaintiffs include a broad coalition of individuals,
organizations, and membership associations who represent hundreds of
thousands of online users.  They include the ACLU, Human Rights Watch,
Journalism Education Association, Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility, National Writers Union, ClariNet Communications, Institute
for Global Communication, Stop Prisoner Rape, AIDS Education Global
Information Service, BiblioBytes, Queer Resources Directory, Critical Path
AIDS Project, Wildcat Press, Declan McCullagh dba Justice on Campus, Brock
Meeks dba CyberWire Dispatch, John Troyer dba The Safer Sex Web Page,
Jonathan Wallace dba The Ethical Spectacle, and Planned Parenthood
Federation of America.

  2/15    Judge Buckwalter, a federal judge in Philadelphia, issues a
Temporary Restraining Order against enforcement of the "indecency"
provisions of the CDA.  He denies a TRO against the "patently offensive"
and the abortion speech provisions of the CDA.

  2/25    ACLU and Department of Justice (DOJ) file a written stipulation
with the Court in which DOJ agrees not to prosecute under either the
"patently offensive" or the "indecency" provisions until the Court hears
and determines the ACLU's motion for a preliminary injunction.  The
agreement protects _all_ online users (not just the plaintiffs in the

  2/25    A second lawsuit is filed in Philadelphia to challenge the CDA.
The lawsuit (_American Library Assoc. v. DOJ_) includes an impressive list
of plaintiffs, including the American Library Association, American
Booksellers Association, America Online, Microsoft, Apple Computer, and
Prodigy.  Lead counsel in the case is Bruce Ennis, of Jenner and Block in
Washington, DC, and formerly Legal Director of the ACLU.

  2/27     _ALA v. DOJ_ is formally consolidated with _ACLU v. Reno_.

  3/21-3/22    An evidentiary hearing on the preliminary injunction motions
will be held before a three-judge court in Philadelphia consisting of Judge
Dolores Sloviter (Chief Judge, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals), Judge Stewart
Dalzell (Federal District Court, Eastern District of PA), and Judge Ronald
Buckwalter (Federal District Court, Eastern District of PA).  The Court has
reserved the following days, if necessary, for conclusion of the hearing:
4/1, 4/11, and 4/12. **The Court's decision on the preliminary injunction
motion can be directly appealed by either side to the Supreme Court.**

For complete details on _ACLU v. Reno_, including legal documents, press
releases, and information and links for all the plaintiffs, visit the ACLU
web page at

*  ACTION ALERT:  The Big Chill -- Tell Us Your Story of Speech Chilled by
the CDA

While the government has agreed not to prosecute under the CDA until the
Court determines the constitutional challenge, the Big Chill is already on.
 Since passage of the Act on 2/8/96, the ACLU has received reports of
17-year-olds being kicked off MUCKs because of "dirty" words, new access
requirements and age verifications for newsgroups and mailing lists, and
complete shutdown of some sites.  Faced with criminal prosecution, there is
no doubt that the vagueness of the CDA has led many to trade their free
speech rights for safety.

One of the crucial elements of our constitutional challenge to the CDA is
educating the courts about these disastrous chilling effects.

An easy-to-use form on the ACLU home page lets you report specific
instances of the Big Chill.

Some of these reports will be used as evidence for the hearing in the _ACLU
v. Reno_ case -- so be sure to complete all the information and provide
thorough details about the incident.  (We will also re-package the reports
and make them available through the web site.)

"The Big Chill" reporting form will be up and running on Tuesday, 3/5, at

Tell us your story, and help us win the court battle for free speech in

*  Magician "Teller" Reaches Janet Reno on the Phone, Tells Her Not to
Enforce the CDA!

In the 2/9/96 issue of the Cyber-Liberties Update, the ACLU urged netizens
to call or fax Janet Reno, U.S. Attorney General, and tell her not to
prosecute under the newly passed CDA.  The alert was also posted on the
ACLU web page, which provided a form for instant fax -- activists used the
form to fax thousands of letters to Reno, and countless others placed calls
to Reno.

At least one online activist received an extra special award for
participating in democracy -- JANET RENO ANSWERED THE PHONE WHEN HE CALLED!
 The netizen was none other than Teller, of the famous Penn and Teller
magic act.

On Valentine's Day, spurred by the ACLU action alert, Teller picked up the
phone to call Reno's office.  After giving an earnest plea against online
censorship to an unidentified person on the other end of the line at the
Department of Justice, he asked to whom he was speaking.  "Janet Reno,"
came the reply.  Surprised and somewhat speechless, Teller said he was
sorry, that he didn't know the number was some sort of "inside line."  "No
need to apologize," said Janet kindly.

Teller sent a follow-up letter to Reno, which is reprinted below.  Like all
the other wonderful letters against the CDA sent by citizens to government
officials over the past year, it is a moving testament for free speech.  We
only hope that if enough folks actually "get through" to Janet, she'll
begin to understand why she should never use this draconian law against the
online world.

Dear Attorney General Reno,

  I spoke with you this afternoon briefly and not very articulately.  It
was quite startling to find you in and I'm not great at thinking on my

  Please, please, I urge you not to stand behind the "decency" provisions
of the telecom act.  They limit our freedom of speech. That freedom
protects us from tyranny.  That freedom is a lot more important than
keeping kids from visiting Adults Only web sites.

  Internet providers are now starting to offer services that suit families
who wish to limit the kids' browsing.  Sure, some kids will still sneak
into areas they shouldn't.  But I'd much rather have your expertise and
energy directed against the guys who rape, kill, and steal; not waste it on
mischievous kids reading and writing and looking at pictures.

  Jefferson would not be pleased to hear you ask our nation to limit our
communications to topics suitable for children.  He would understand that
the Internet is a huge library created by adults for their use.  Children
have found their way in.  If we prefer kids not to see grownup books, let
us engineer ways to keep them out.  But let us not burn down the library or
make it a criminal act to stock anything stronger than Dr. Seuss.

  "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," wrote Benjamin Franklin in
1759.  Even if censoring the Internet would actually reduce crime (and you
are experienced enough to know in your heart it wouldn't), to do so would
betray the men and women who have died for our freedom.

  Please think about it.  You are important.  Don't let us down.


*  Law Students Organize a Nationwide "Silent Protest" Day Against the CDA

Concerned over the facially unconstitutional provisions of the recently
enacted CDA, students from more than a dozen of the nation's leading law
schools have organized to protest the legislation.  This is the first
nationally organized protest in US Law Schools since the Vietnam War.

On March 14th, students at law schools nationwide will distribute blue
ribbons, and pledge to remain silent from the hours of 10:05 am to 2:05 pm
to bring home the effects of censorship. Students at several schools will
augment the "silent protest" with discussion groups and teach-ins.

More than a dozen of the nation's leading law schools are represented in
the protest, including New York University, Harvard, Columbia, University
of Washington, Michigan, Penn, William & Mary, Fordham, Boston University,
Florida State University and others.  The movement was created by a group
of students at New York University, which is serving as a national steering
committee for the protest.

For complete information on the Law Student protest, see the "Law Student
Protest" files in the Cyber-Liberties section of the ACLU web site, at

Or contact Charles Glasser, at •••@••.•••.

STATE PAGE (Legislation/Agency/Court Cases)
*  Washington State Censorship Bill is DEAD AGAIN

A rare bit of good news on cyber-liberties:  House Bill 2267, the
Washington state legislature's latest attempt to ban a vast range of
artistic, educational, scientific, and other expression as "harmful to
minors," met an early death in the House Rules Committee.

The ACLU and other civil liberties groups were successful in stopping
through a gubernatorial vote last year's attempt, Senate Bill 5466, after
it made it all the way to his desk.

ACLU Cyber-Liberties Update
Editor: Ann Beeson (•••@••.•••)
American Civil Liberties Union National Office
132 West 43rd Street
New York, New York 10036

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 Posted by Richard K. Moore  -  •••@••.•••  -  Wexford, Ireland
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