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Child Online Protection Act Appeal Rejected 251

Posted by timothy
from the hi-professor-bollinger dept.
TarrVetus writes "The Associated Press reports that a federal appeals court in Philadelphia has ruled that the Child Online Protection Act will not be revived, upholding a 2007 decision that the unimplemented 1998 law is unconstitutional. The law, which made it a crime for websites to allow children access to 'harmful' material, was declared a violation of the First Amendment because of existing elective filtering technologies and parental controls that are less restrictive to free speech than the 'ineffective' and 'overly broad' ban."
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Child Online Protection Act Appeal Rejected

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  • by guruevi (827432) <evi AT smokingcube DOT be> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @02:00PM (#26549789) Homepage

    This law is 11 years old and it's still squirming through the courts. For all those that say that free speech is protected by the constitution and that certain branches will do away with unconstitutional laws: here is an example of how long you can potentially have laws affecting you while you're fighting it in court.

    Of course this law is unimplemented but several other laws like DMCA and Patriot Act ARE implemented and unconstitutional. It takes longer than a 2 term presidency to do away with a dead law, how long do you think it would take to repeal a law that has been in use?

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @02:20PM (#26550139)
      Yes, these things take a while to sort themselves out. There is simply no other way to protect the rights of the citizens while maintaining a meaningful and functional government. Subtle violations of your rights take longer, because there is more disagreement over whether or not your rights were violated at all -- you might think that the DMCA is a violation of your rights, but there are plenty of people out there who feel that it is not and that in fact, the DMCA protects the rights of the citizens (copyrights precede free speech in the constitution), including you.

      Seriously, why do people think the system is deficient just because problems are not solved instantly?
      • Seriously, why do people think the system is deficient just because problems are not solved instantly?

        If people (which they seem to do quite often) think that what they think is the ultimate right/correct way to think, then disagreements are just stupid, and thus the problems should be easily solved (e.g.,"sudden outbreak of common sense" as though it's obvious to everyone what the correct answer to the problem is).

        It's a good thing the courts don't decide things based on a slashdot-esque tagging system, hehe. :) Not to say courts are perfect, but.

      • by theaveng (1243528) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @03:07PM (#26550965)

        Tell someone who has spent eleven years in jail, due to a law that was eventually declared unconstitutional, that they are being "impatient".

        For example, those persons who were jailed by the D.C. Anti-gun Ownershipship Law which was eventually declared unconstitutional. They lost a big chunk of their lives to imprisonment, for a law that should have never existed.

        • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:02PM (#26554233)

          For example, those persons who were jailed by the D.C. Anti-gun Ownershipship Law which was eventually declared unconstitutional. They lost a big chunk of their lives to imprisonment, for a law that should have never existed.

          Those people had a choice. They could comply with the law until it was overturned. Or they could choose civil disobedience, which necessarily comes along with jail time. There is no realistic third choice where you get to break the law and not be punished.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dun Malg (230075)

        (copyrights precede free speech in the constitution)

        Physically preceding in the text doesn't determine precedence in law, Einstein.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        There is simply no other way to protect the rights of the citizens while maintaining a meaningful and functional government.

        Do you have evidence of this assertion? How many other ways have you tried?

      • The problem isn't just how long it takes to get removed. The problem is it was able to get there in the first place, even though so many people could easily see what it does to us. That's the deficiency.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      This law is 11 years old and it's still squirming through the courts.

      AFAIK, the right to a speedy trial does not apply in civil actions.

      It would be nice if it did though.
      At least for Constitutional claims.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        This is why there should be only one body of law. Civil cases are being used as an end run around our constitutional rights. If I am being victimized by the government, I don't care if they're bringing civil or criminal action against me. I deserve all my rights, no matter what venue I'm in.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rolfwind (528248)

      In the 1800s, Congress spent some time arguing the Constitutionality of proposed laws. The Supreme Court wasn't supposed to be the only barrier judging Constitutionality. You also had vetos from the executive branch being more than just political tools - in the hands of Constructionist such as Grover Cleveland. Now, almost no one in Congress cares - our government is viewed, not as limited, but unlimited and without bounds (if worded properly).

      It's not that people were better back then, but a change in m

    • Ok, isn't ANYONE going to point out that the summary is totally wrong? The *Supreme* Court declined to hear the government's appeal of the Philadelphia appellate court's decision. It's not still squirming, it is dead. Deceased. Gone to meet it's maker. It would be pushing up daisies if the editors from Slashdot even bothered to RTFA.

      Is congress going to try again? Of course. But this particular law has reached the end of its non-life.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      here is an example of how long you can potentially have laws affecting you while you're fighting it in court.

      You mean not at all? An injunction was issued before this law went into force. For 11 years, people have been fighting to have the law enforcable, with the default being that it was not until the court cases were settled.

  • by olddotter (638430) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @02:09PM (#26549959) Homepage
    How many times did you have to read this summary before you understood the current state of the law?
    • On top of that, it's opposite day!

    • by Diamon (13013)

      I didn't have to not read it 3 times to not know what it didn't mean.

    • How many times did you have to read this summary before you understood the current state of the law?

      Once.

    • Once, but I read it after reading your post.

      I found it perfectly clear, although I read it slowly enough to digest all the negations properly, probably influenced by your post.

      (fwiw)

  • by internerdj (1319281) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @02:15PM (#26550051)
    I'll believe the government can do that when they can prove they can keep:
    1) My social security number
    2) My finacial information
    3) Any other personal identifiable information
    safe (well you know what) just in their own systems much less the internet as a whole. If it isn't technically feasible to protect me from people that are actively looking to ruin my entire life, then they don't have a shot at keeping my kids "safe" from whatever might possibly someday have a potentially negative effect on them in some way.
    • The children would be in more danger if you don't let them have the pornography. Then they'll have to use their cellphones to make their own, and they'll all be listed as sexual predators...
  • by Kenyai (1422451) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @02:34PM (#26550379)

    I'm glad this happened.

    Allow me to be blatantly honest. I think kids should have the right to explore their sexuality in a safe manner online. I know I did.

    Why is "adult entertainment" so exclusive anyway? You know, they could have extremely tame erotic websites to cater to kids who are interested. Probably like softcore Playboy pics or something.

    • by caffeinemessiah (918089) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @02:44PM (#26550559) Journal

      You know, they could have extremely tame erotic websites to cater to kids who are interested. Probably like softcore Playboy pics or something.

      This is the funniest thing I think I've ever read on Slashdot. You, sir, seem to live in some reality where a controversial but possibly reasonable argument about pornography and children will be taken seriously. Anyway, let's assume that such a proposal does make it to the general public. In the "real" world, "tame erotic websites" will have the same connotation as marijuana being a "gateway drug": (a) that it's addictive and harmful (b) it leads to "harder" stuff (in both weed and porn contexts) and (c) it will ruin the children, even though adults enjoy it responsibly everyday.

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @03:13PM (#26551065)
        a physics professor, in fact, who happens to be a friend of mine, puts it this way:

        "They correlate marijuana use with other drugs, and say '70% of hard drug users started with marijuana.' But they are missing something: they ALL started on milk!"
      • by PitaBred (632671)
        It's true! I started with ogling the bikini pics, and now I can't get hard short of autoerotic asphyxiation and an hour's worth of gunpoint rape porn.

        I probably need a sarcasm tag in there somewhere before the moral police come to take me away...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        When I was in Germany I saw a magazines (Bravo?) equivalent to something like Teen People in the US that had nude teenagers with stats like age/height/etc with one male and one female per issue in with information on Fools Garden or whatever other German pop was popular at the time. I think the intent was to provide a basis for comparison for the body changes teens go through. In the US this would likely be considered child pornography and land you in jail.
      • So stop calling it "tame erotic websites" and start calling it MTV.com.
      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @04:37PM (#26552341) Homepage Journal

        In the "real" world, "tame erotic websites" will have the same connotation as marijuana being a "gateway drug": (a) that it's addictive and harmful (b) it leads to "harder" stuff (in both weed and porn contexts) and (c) it will ruin the children, even though adults enjoy it responsibly everyday.

        A: Marijuana is not addictive, but could be harmful to some (e.g., children and some mental patients).

        B: marijuana doesn't lead to "harder" drugs (harder, deadly drugs like alcohol and tobacco?), but the laws against it certainly do. The same people who sell pot sell other drugs, and when Reagan waged his war in marijuana, the pot supply dried up and there was a flood of cocaine.

        "Got any pot, man?"

        "No, it's dry. Want some coke?"

        I know guys who loved their marijuana until their employer started drug testing. Lied to about pot (which stays in your system for a month) they figured they were lied to about crack (which stays from three days to a week) as well, and subsitutued crack for pot, since they were less likely to get caught.

        None of them are now employed by anybody, cocaine addiction is no joke.

        C: this is the absolutely retardedest thing about drug prohibition. You want to keep it from the kids? Kids ain't narcs and dealers know it. It's easier for a kid to buy dope than an adult. Hell, you can buy pot in high schoold, but you can't buy beer there.

        You would have to be on some strong drugs to think that outlawing marijuana could possibly have any positive effect on society.

    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      Yup, I did the same thing. But I did it mostly by P2P rather than websites. I'd like to see them try to block that...

    • by j79zlr (930600) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @02:50PM (#26550653) Homepage

      I'm glad this happened.

      Allow me to be blatantly honest. I think kids should have the right to explore their sexuality in a safe manner online. I know I did.

      Why is "adult entertainment" so exclusive anyway? You know, they could have extremely tame erotic websites to cater to kids who are interested. Probably like softcore Playboy pics or something.

      MTV?

    • Gotta tell you, a lot of porn sites have chat nowadays, or at least the most fun ones do, and I don't want my kids being on those sites talking with a bunch of degenerates.

      Softcore porn for kids is (I can't believe I'm saying this) probably not that bad of an idea, considering that almost everyone has gotten their chafed little hands on a Victoria's Secret catalog somewhere along the way, but the nature of internet porn is that every site attempts to link you deeper into dirtier and more proprietary materia

    • Better to learn from other people's mistakes (or experiences). I'm pretty sure the Planned Ignorance crowd is motivated by a desire to propogate their genetic line at all costs, rather than any real concern for their immediate offsprings.

    • You know, they could have extremely tame erotic websites to cater to kids who are interested. Probably like softcore Playboy pics or something.

      Something like PG Porn? http://www.spike.com/video/pg-porn-pg-porn/3041858 [spike.com]

  • COPA vs. COPPA (Score:4, Informative)

    by riceboy50 (631755) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @03:59PM (#26551797)
    This is not to be confused with COPPA [wikipedia.org], which is also a 1998 law protecting children online that exists and is enforced.
  • Hooray precedent (Score:4, Informative)

    by RepelHistory (1082491) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @04:05PM (#26551897)
    This is absolutely a free speech issue, and while the government has the power to regulate speech, this generally applies to the time, place and manner of the speech rather than its content.

    The Supreme Court has long held that if the government wants to regulate speech based on its content, the regulation must serve a compelling government interest, be narrowly tailored to fit that interest, and be the least restrictive means possible. This test is referred to as "strict scrutiny." ( Source [wikipedia.org])

    In this case, COPA is simply way out of line. While the status of protecting minors from the horrors of breasts as a compelling government interest is debatable (I would argue that it is none of the government's beeswax), COPA is definitely not the least restrictive means possible to protect the children. Responsible parents can and should control the content that their children access through the means available to them, and thus any government regulation beyond this is by definition not the least restrictive means possible. So any government regulation to this end is unconstitutional as long as free speech is involved and parents have at the very least the opportunity to parent responsibly.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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