Child Online Protection Act dead after high court declines to hear DOJ appeal

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ended a decade-long battle by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to have the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (COPA) [text] declared constitutional by denying certiorari [order list, PDF] in the case of Mukasey v. ACLU [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. By denying review, the Court has decided that the law, which imposes civil and criminal penalties on website operators for making sexually explicit materials available to minors over the Internet, will not be enforced. Free speech advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], lauded [press release] the Court's decision. Chris Hansen, the ACLU's lead counsel on the case, said:

For over a decade the government has been trying to thwart freedom of speech on the Internet, and for years the courts have been finding the attempts unconstitutional. It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet. Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families.
The Court rejected the case without comment.

COPA was enacted in 1998 after similar provisions contained in the Communications Decency Act (CDA) [text] were struck down by the Court in Reno v. ACLU [text] as unconstitutional because the law was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest and because less restrictive alternatives were available. In 2004, the Court upheld [JURIST report] an temporary injunction against enforcing the law, ruling that is was probably unconstitutional. The ACLU began its lawsuit [JURIST report] in 2006 and in March 2007 a federal judge for in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a permanent injunction [decision, PDF; JURIST report] against enforcement of COPA. That decision that was affirmed [decision, PDF; JURIST report] by the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in July 2007. COPA was never enforced since its inception in 1998.

 

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