cr> IP: new suit to be filed against CDA tomorrow in Philly


Craig A. Johnson

Date:          Sun, 25 Feb 1996 20:00:08 -0500
From:          Dave Farber <•••@••.•••>
Subject:       IP: new suit to be filed against CDA tomorrow in Philly
To:            •••@••.••• (interesting-people mailing list)

A full text will be available after noon eastern time tomorrow. Your
friendly IP Editor is a litigant in the suit.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Internet is more like a newspaper than 
television -- and deserves the same First Amendment protection, a
coalition including Microsoft, the American Library Association and
the Society for Professional Journalists plans to argue in a lawsuit
 The lawsuit seeks to overturn the Communications Decency Act,  
which imposes a $250,000 fine and up to six years in prison for 
transmitting material considered indecent in such a way that it may be
accessed on the Internet by children. 
 Another lawsuit, filed Feb. 8 by a coalition led by the American 
Civil Liberties Union, resulted in the temporary blocking of the act.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwaler said the definition of indecency
in the act was so vague that people wouldn't know they were breaking
the law until they were arrested. 
 The new lawsuit, to be filed in Philadelphia by the Citizens  
Internet Empowerment Coalition, goes beyond the ACLU's by 
attempting to redefine the law which covers the Internet. 
 ``The basic First Amendment framework for the Internet is going  to
be set by this case,'' said Daniel Weitzner of the Center for
Democracy and Technology in Washington D.C. 
 Messages left Sunday with the Justice Department seeking comment  on
the lawsuit were not immediately returned. 
 The lawsuit includes more than 50 pages of explanation as to why  the
Internet is a new technology deserving of new laws. 
 ``A good chunk of the complaint is spent walking the court  
through how the medium works,'' said Bill Burrington, general 
counsel for America Online, the largest commercial Internet service in
the United States with more than 4 million members. 
 ``By putting together this very broad coalition we have the  
opportunity to bring this debate up to a more rational and 
intelligent level, and to educate the court about the technology. That
education never happened in Congress because there were never any
hearings,'' he said. 
 Historically, broadcast has been the most restricted kind of  
speech because the number of channels is limited and listeners and
viewers don't have control over what they see. 
 ``We're hoping to show that instead of being a captive audience, 
Internet users have control of what they see and what comes into their
homes,'' Weitzner said. 
 Because of that, the lawsuit holds, the Internet is more like a 
newspaper or a book than a television program -- and Internet
companies are more like publishers than television stations. 
 The coalition also believes there are alternative and less  
restrictive means to protect children or anyone else from offensive
content. Numerous software programs allow parents to block material
they don't wish their children to have access to, without the need to
reduce the content of the entire Internet to something acceptable for
 ``We believe that parental involvement, education and technology 
provide far more effective solutions to protecting children than this
or any other law could,'' Burrington said. 
 The coalition fears that if the same kinds of restrictions  
placed on television and radio are placed on the Internet, a double
standard will develop between the real and online worlds. ....


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