EFF applauds today's Supreme Court decision to uphold a preliminary injunction that restricts the government from enacting the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). The law, which was passed in 1998, criminalizes sexual expression on the Internet that could be deemed "harmful to minors" by a reasonable person using contemporary community standards. Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion, emphasizing that the government failed to demonstrate that COPA is not the "least restrictive" method for protecting children online. He explained that filtering and blocking software are examples of less restrictive ways to regulate minors' access to harmful material.
EFF attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow Kevin Bankston said, "The Supreme Court rightly recognized that there are ways of protecting our children from harmful material on the Internet that are much less restrictive and less damaging to First Amendment principles than COPA."
Added EFF Policy Analyst Annalee Newitz, "We are pleased that Justice Kennedy's opinion recommended solutions that would give people the choice to block harmful content on their home PCs, rather than chilling free speech at its source by threatening Internet speakers with criminal prosecution." Justice Kennedy wrote that COPA's criminal penalties, which include steep fines and even imprisonment, are a potentially "repressive force" in a free society.
The Supreme Court decision sends COPA back to the District Court for full trial.