virus: !!!!!! VICTORY !!!!!

John A (
Tue, 11 Jun 1996 11:01:27 -0500

W E H A V E W O N ! ! ! ! !

> From: ACLU Cyber-liberties
> Date: Wed, 12 Jun 1996 18:53:57
> PHILADELPHIA-- In a resounding victory for First Amendment rights
> everywhere, a three-judge panel in federal district court in
> today struck down a law that would criminalize free speech in
> In a 3-0 decision with three separate opinions issued by Chief
> Dolores K. Sloviter, Judge Stewart Dalzell, and Judge Buckwalter, the
> court granted a motion for preliminary injunction on "indecency"
> provisions of the Communications Decency Act.
> "Cutting through the acronyms and argot that littered hearing
> testimony, the Internet may fairly be regarded as a never-ending
> worldwide conversation. The Government may not, through the CDA,
> interrupt that conversation," Judge Stewart Dalzell wrote in his
> "As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the
> Internet deserves the highest protection from governmental intrusion."
> Speaking at a press conference today in New York, the ACLU lauded
> the court's ruling. "It's only a handful of times in a century that a
> court is called upon to decide what the rules will be in a new
> communications medium," said Christopher Hansen, one of the lawyers who
> argued the case for the ACLU. "Today's decision reaffirms that, no
> what the medium, the message should be protected by the First
> Addressing the ACLU's argument that the "indecency" and "patently
> offensive" provisions of the CDA were impermissibly vague, Judge Ronald
> Buckwalter wrote: "I continue to believe that the word "indecent " is
> unconstitutionally vague, and I find that the terms "in context" and
> "patently offensive" are also so vague as to violate the First and Fifth
> Amendments."
> "This is a decision of inestimable historic importance," said
> Marjorie Heins, a member of the legal team who argued the case before
> court. "For the first time, the court has clearly stated that standards
> like ?indecency' and ?patently offensive' are impermissibly vague and
> therefore unacceptable for regulating free speech by a free people."
> Throughout the course of the trial, the court expressed concern
> works of serious literary merit would be censored under the CDA, and
> individuals would be held criminally liable for violations.
> As Chief Judge Dolores K. Sloviter noted in her opinion, trusting
> the government to limit the CDA's application in a way that would avoid
> prosecution for works of serious literary or artistic merit "would
> require a broad trust indeed from a generation of judges not far removed
> from the attacks on James Joyce's Ulysses as obscene."
> Summing up her opinion, Judge Sloviter wrote: "The bottom line is
> that the First Amendment should not be interpreted to require us to
> entrust the protection it affords to the judgment of prosecutors.
> Prosecutors come and go...The First Amendment remains to give protection
> to future generation as well."
> The ACLU filed its legal challenge to the Communications Decency
> on February 8, the day after it was signed into law by President
> saying that its chilling effects would be felt immediately throughout
> online world. After an initial hearing before Judge Ronald L.
> the three-judge panel was convened to hear the case:. (Note: see
> Chronology for details on ACLU v. Reno.)
> The ACLU's suit argued that provisions of the CDA were
> unconstitutional because they would criminalize expression that is
> protected by the First Amendment. The legislation would also violate
> constitutional rights to privacy, the ACLU asserted, because it would
> criminalize certain private e-mail correspondence between individuals.
> During five scheduled days of trial, which took place during March,
> April and May, the court heard from 15 witnesses for the plaintiffs, who
> testified about the technological and sociological nature of the
> and how the censorship law would effectively ban most "indecent" speech
> in cyberspace.
> The ACLU brought its case on behalf of 20 individuals and
> organizations that provide information via the Internet -- including
> itself -- moving quickly because it feared that the telecommunications
> legislation would have an immediate impact on the Internet. In addition
> to the ACLU, plaintiffs in the case including the Electronic Privacy
> Information Center, Critical Path AIDS Project, Human Rights Watch, the
> Institute for Global Communication, the journalist Brock Meeks; the
> Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Planned Parenthood Federation of
> America. A second case, brought by the American Library Association, was
> consolidated with ACLU v. Reno on February 26, 1996.
> Several plaintiffs, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood
> Federation of America, also sought relief from the electronic "gag rule"
> version of the Comstock Law, criminalizing online speech about abortion.
> Today's decision did not address that aspect of the case, because the
> government had conceded earlier that the abortion speech restrictions
> were unconstitutional.
> Lawyers for the ACLU appearing before the judges are Christopher
> Hansen, Marjorie Heins, Ann Beeson, and Stefan Presser, legal director
> the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
> [Additional materials, including the text of the ruling, may be found at
> the ACLU Web Site at]
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