WASHINGTON - July 22 - The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a lower court ruling striking down a controversial law that required Web operators to restrict access to large amounts of constitutionally protected speech.
The Child Online Protection Act (COPA) placed severe restrictions on a wide range of legal, socially valuable speech, including content relating to sexual identity, health and art. In its ruling today the court said COPA "cannot withstand a strict scrutiny, vagueness, or overbreadth analysis and thus is unconstitutional."
Since 1998, the federal courts have issued seven separate legal opinions finding very serious constitutional problems with COPA.
"Throughout the history of legal challenges to COPA, we have argued that the most effective way to protect children online, and the means least restrictive of free expression, is to give families the resources to control what their children see and do online," said CDT General Counsel John Morris. "This empowers parents, respects the First Amendment and acknowledges the diverse sensibilities of American families."
In defending COPA, and earlier the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997, Congress has spent twelve years attempting to use criminal laws to censor protected online speech on the Internet that is lawful for adults to access. That approach to protect children online has been an utter failure.
"Congress should not return to the consistently rejected approach of censoring the Internet," said CDT President Leslie Harris. "Instead, Congress should promote education and the availability of filtering technology."