August 4, 1997 12:30 PM PDT

CDA dead--permanently

The judges who first deemed the Communications Decency Act unconstitutional have quietly signed the law's official death certificate.

On Wednesday, the federal three-judge panel in Philadelphia The CDA: Case closed approved a permanent injunction against the CDA after the Justice Department agreed to a conversion of the temporary injunction granted by court last June.

The permanent injunction marks the last chapter in the life of the federal law, which made it a felony to transmit or display indecent material online to minors. On June 26, the Supreme Court affirmed the Philadelphia court's ruling that the CDA was overly broad and vague, violating the right to free speech under the First Amendment.

But the fight is not over for the parties who brought the initial challenges to the CDA: the American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition led by the American Library Association.

More than a dozen bills are winding through Congress now that aim to ban a range of online activity from gambling to sending unsolicited email.

Several states already are enforcing cyberlaws. For example, Oklahoma and Virginia prohibit employees at state agencies and educational institutions from storing obscene material on their computer systems. On behalf of six professors, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in May to overturn the Virginia law.

The civil liberties group is currently investigating numerous state and federal Net laws that may be unconstitutionally infringing on surfers' rights. "We're also monitoring what kinds of laws are passing in each state," ACLU spokeswoman Emily Whitfield said today.

In addition, the group is waiting to see if Justice will appeal another temporary injunction against an online censorship law in New York. The ACLU hopes that the government will agree to a permanent injunction in this case as well.

The New York law was almost identical to the CDA. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ruled on June 20 that the law violated the Constitution's interstate commerce clause, which forbids one state from regulating another state's commercial activity.

On the same day, District Judge Marvin Shoob barred enforcement of a Georgia law that forbade anonymous and pseudonymous online speech. Shoob said the law overstepped its reach and stifled protected speech.

 

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