CR> More on Indecency Restraining Order


Craig A. Johnson


Date: 15 Feb 1996 18:51:00 -0500
From: David Sobel <•••@••.•••>
To: Distribution <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Decision in CDA "Indecency"

February 15, 1996, 6:45 p.m. ET
Washington, DC

A federal judge in Philadelphia has issued a partial temporary
restraining order prohibiting enforcement of the "indecency"
provision of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).  The judge
declined to enjoin those provisions of the Act dealing with
"patently offensive" communications.

The court agreed with the plaintiifs' claim that the CDA will have a
chilling effect on free speech on the Internet and found that the CDA
raises "serious, substantial, difficult and doubtful questions."  The
Court further agreed that the CDA is "unconstitutionally vague" as to
the prosecution for indecency. But the Court left open the possibility
that the government could prosecute under the "patently offensive"

The court has recognized the critical problem with the CDA, which is
the attempt to apply the indecency standard to on-line communications.
 Nonetheless, online speech remains at risk because of the sweeping
nature of the CDA.

The entry of the court order is a strong indication that the
"indecency" provision of the legislation that went into effect on
February 8 will not survive constitutional scrutiny by a three- judge
panel that has been impaneled in Philadelphia.  The panel will fully
evaluate the constitutional validity of the legislation and consider
entry of a permanent injunction against enforcement of the new law.

The temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued in a lawsuit
filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the
American Civil Liberties Union and a broad coalition of
organizations.  EPIC is also participating as co-counsel in the

The court ruling comes in the wake of widespread denunciation of
the CDA, which was included in the telecommunications reform bill
signed into law last week.

According to EPIC Legal Counsel David Sobel, one of the attorneys
representing the coalition, "The court's decision is a partial victory
for free speech, but expression on the Internet remains at risk.  This
is destined to become a landmark case that will determine the future
of the Internet."  Looking ahead to proceedings before the three-judge
panel, Sobel said "we are optimistic that further litigation of this
case will demonstrate to the court that the CDA, in its entirety, does
not pass constitutional muster.

EPIC has maintained since its introduction in Congress that the
ban on "indecent" and "patently offensive" electronic speech is a
clear violation of the free speech and privacy rights of millions of
Internet users.

Comprehensive information on the CDA lawsuit, including
plaintiffs' brief in support of the TRO, is available at:

David L. Sobel
Legal Counsel
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Co-counsel in *ACLU, et al. v. Reno*
(202) 544-9240


Visit The Cyber-Rights Library,  accessible via FTP or WWW at:

You are encouraged to forward and cross-post list traffic,
pursuant to any contained copyright & redistribution restrictions.