February 27, 1996

Computer and Publishing Businesses
Challenge Comunications Decency Act

Related Article
  • Computer Industry Joins Challenge to Decency Act, from Monday's CyberTimes

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A coalition that includes the computer industry giants Microsoft and Apple filed a Federal lawsuit on Monday asking that a new law restricting indecency on the Internet be overturned.

    The lawsuit's target is the Communications Decency Act, which imposes a $250,000 fine and up to six years in prison for transmitting indecent material in such a way that children could find it on the Internet.

    The group, organized as the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition, argues that there are less restrictive means, like in-home blocking software, to protect children or other users from offensive material.

    "We believe that parental involvement, education and technology provide far more effective solutions to protecting children than this or any other law could," said Bill Burrington, general counsel for America Online, the largest commercial on-line service in the United States with more than 4 million members.

    Enforcement of the act has been blocked temporarily by another lawsuit, filed here on Feb. 8 by a coalition led by the American Civil Liberties Union. Judge Ronald Buckwalter of District Court said that the definition of indecency in the act, signed on Feb. 1 by President Clinton, was too vague.

    The law defines indecency as "any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image or other communication that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs."

    Senator James Exon, one of the law's sponsors, accused the computer companies in the new lawsuit of being "more interested in profits from pornography than protecting children."

    "We don't allow children to walk into adult bookstores, and shouldn't allow them to freely browse the red light districts of the Internet either," Exon, a Nebraska Democrat, said in a prepared statement.

    The new complaint will be consolidated with the A.C.L.U. lawsuit, said Bruce Ennis, the Washington lawyer representing the coalition. A three-judge panel of the Federal District Court here is to consider the issue beginning March 21.

    The coalition also includes, among others, CompuServe and Prodigy, both commercial on-line services, the American Library Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Association of American Publishers, the Newspaper Association of America and the Association of Publishers, Editors and Writers.

    The full text of the complaint is available at the Web site of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

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