Yesterday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision ruling that the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) violates the First Amendment. COPA makes it a crime to knowingly post sexually explicit material that is "harmful to minors” on the web “for commercial purposes.” Although Congress apparently intended that COPA apply to commercial pornographers, the statute's broad definition of "commercial purposes" could draw in ordinary websites that make money from advertising, which is why Salon Media Group, Nerve.com, and Dan Savage, among others, joined in the lawsuit challenging the Act.
Among other things, the Third Circuit determined that "COPA, like the Communications Decency Act before it, 'effectively suppresses a large amount of speech that adults have a constitutional right to receive and to address to one another,' and thus is overbroad." The court also ruled that the statute was unconstitutionally vague and not narrowly tailored to the government's admittedly compelling interest in protecting minors from harmful material on the Internet. read more »