Supreme Court Refuses To Revive Online Censorship Law

January 21, 2009

ACLU Wins 10-Year Legal Battle To Protect Free Speech

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – In a clear victory for free speech, the Supreme Court has announced that it will not hear the government's appeal of a ban on the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), the federal law that would criminalize constitutionally protected speech on the Internet.

Lower courts have rejected the law as unconstitutional and it has not gone into effect in the 10 years since it was passed. In 2004, the Supreme Court upheld an injunction against the law on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment. The American Civil Liberties Union first challenged COPA on behalf of a broad coalition of writers, artists and health educators who use the Internet to communicate constitutionally protected speech.

The following can be attributed to Chris Hansen, senior staff attorney for the ACLU and lead counsel on the case:

"For over a decade the government has been trying to thwart freedom of speech on the Internet, and for years the courts have been finding the attempts unconstitutional. It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet. Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families."

The following can be attributed to Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU:

"The Court's decision not to review COPA for a third time affirms what we have been saying all along – the government has no right to censor protected speech on the Internet, and it cannot reduce adults to hearing and seeing only speech that the government considers suitable for children."

Attorneys on the case are Hansen, Aden Fine, Ben Wizner and Catherine Crump of the ACLU, Katharine Marshall with the law firm Kobre and Kim LLP, and Christopher Harris and Jeroen van Kwawegen with the law firm Latham and Watkins. 

A video featuring Chris Hansen discussing COPA is online at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vNwEfOrbbo

More information about the case is available online at: www.aclu.org/copa

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