The Child Online Protection Act -- the allegedly antiporn measure supported by Attorneys General Janet Reno, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey -- was struck down again this week, when the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals again rejected the Clinton-era measure, which would have imposed civil and criminal penalties on those who put material deemed “harmful to minors” on the Web.
This has truly been the law that wouldn't die. Third Circuit Court Senior Judge Lowell A. Reed Jr. sided with Salon and the ACLU in March 2007 -- after his court had already rejected the law twice, but was forced by the Supreme Court to consider new arguments. And the government appealed Reed's ruling, again. On Tuesday the court recognized that COPA would “chill protected speech” by forcing Internet publishers to create burdensome procedures to ban minors, all of which would reduce traffic and audience. "COPA criminalizes a category of speech -- 'harmful to minors' material -- that is constitutionally protected for adults," the court ruled. "Because COPA is a content-based restriction on protected speech, it is presumptively invalid."
You'd think, given all the nation's pressing problems, that 10 years of litigation would be enough for the government, but another appeal to the Supreme Court is still possible. I was attending a conference the day the decision came down and didn't get to post; I couldn't end the week without acknowledging some good news for freedom of speech and the ACLU's great work on the case.
In other good news for free-speech advocates, today we launched Salon Radio with Glenn Greenwald, featuring conversations between Greenwald and interesting newsmakers, three times a week on Salon. He kicked off with Daniel Ellsberg, and you can find their conversation here.