July 24, 2008 | By Kevin Bankston

Key Internet Censorship Law Struck Down Yet Again

The ACLU, EFF, and a coalition of plaintiffs achieved yet another victory for online free speech this week when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed [decision, PDF] a district court's decision [decision, PDF] granting a permanent injunction against enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (COPA), a federal law that would violate the First Amendment by imposing civil and criminal penalties on commercial website operators that publish sexually explicit material without also using credit card authentication or other technological measures to verify viewer age and block access by minors.

COPA was passed after the Supreme Court struck down its predecessor, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), in its landmark decision ACLU v. Reno, the first Supreme Court case to apply the First Amendment to online speech. This Tuesday's decision represents the third time the Third Circuit has held that COPA violates the First Amendment, after nearly ten years of litigation over the law's constitutionality, and as with those previous decisions, the DOJ is expected to seek review by the Supreme Court.

The fight over the CDA and COPA is almost as old as EFF itself, and was the original focus of one of our longest-running activism efforts, the Blue Ribbon Campaign to protect free speech online. Considering this seemingly never-ending legal battle to defend online free speech rights, it's easy to forget that the COPA fight still matters: the Supreme Court has yet to issue a final ruling on the law's constitutionality, and the threat of its eventually being applied--and lawful sexual speech on the Internet being stifled--is very real. So, when the issue once again goes before the Supreme Court, you can count on EFF to be there as a plaintiff, thanks to your continuing support.


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