Thursday, June 12, 2008

COPA: oral arguments of DOJ appeal made to Third Circuit

The ACLU reports that oral arguments on the government’s appeal to the Third Circuit in Philadelphia took place yesterday June 12. This is the third time the ACLU has been before the Third Circuit in the nine year history of the litigation over the Child Online Protection Act, whose enforcement was first enjoined in early 1999. Chris Hansen (not the same person as the Dateline reporter) argued for the ACLU. The original opinion declaring COPA unconstitutional was rendered by Judge Reed March 22, 2007 (after a bench trial in the fall of 2006 in Philadelphia) and reported on this blog that day. The trial progress had been reported on this blog in the previous fall.

The Supreme Court has indicate that it would strike down the law on merits (outside of the community standards debate in 2002) if filters can be found to work. The trial showed that they work about 95% of the time. The government is left to argue that it has an “in loco parentis” responsibility to protect the children of parents who do not know how to operate their kids’ computers and install filters. And it seems to believe that it should control domestic “harmful to minors” material before it tackles the problems from overseas servers (the ACLU calls this the “belt and suspenders approach”.)

The efforts by New York state to get private communications carriers to remove CP materials from their servers may further back up plaintiff’s claims that private screening techniques work, even if there are other legal objections to depending on “private censorship.”

The ACLU’s blog entry yesterday (June 11) was “Take Three: Appellate Court Hears Challenge to Internet Censorship Again,” link here. I love the ACLU's title "Blog of Rights: Because Freedom Can't Blog Itself."

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