Supreme Court of the United States Elects Not to Hear Arguments on the Constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act
The Child Online Protection Act (“COPA”) was passed in 1998 in an attempt to regulate inappropriate web-based content which was too easily accessible by children. COPA was never allowed to take effect, however, as an injunction on the Act was immediately issued after its passage. The constitutionality of the Act was challenged in ACLU v. MuKasey, in which a United States District Court held COPA to be unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment. The ruling was appealed but upheld last summer by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
As expected, the Circuit Court’s ruling was appealed and the Supreme Court of the United States was asked to grant certiorari; the Supreme Court was asked to review the case and decide whether to affirm the lower court’s decision or reverse the decision, finding the Act constitutional. COPA was passed in 1998; two years after the Supreme Court had voided a similar law known as the Communications Decency Act. Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court determined that the lower courts’ rulings on COPA were in line with both their previous decision and the framework for determining constitutionality. Therefore, the Supreme Court did not grant certiorari, effectively affirming the Circuit Court’s ruling, and voiding COPA.
The Supreme Court was under heavy pressure from the Bush administration to review the case, as the administration felt voiding the law would leave millions of children unprotected from pornography and other inappropriate material on the website. The Act would have required United States based websites to require credit card validation or some other means of age verification to allow access to the site. The American Civil Liberties Union, however, countered with the argument that COPA would not protect children from content via websites which do not operate in the United States. They argued that this infringed on American’s right to freedom of speech and that a better, more effective safety measure would be for parents to install filters on their home computers. The issue of COPA’s First Amendment implications was decided in 2004 by the Supreme Court in a split-decision, which blocked the law from taking effect on grounds that it did unconstitutionally affect freedom of speech; however, the case was sent back to the lower courts to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of internet filters. Based on the findings by the lower courts, most recently the Third Circuit, the Supreme Court recently held two closed-door meetings in which they elected not to review the Circuit Court’s holding.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case effectively voided COPA as it was found to be unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment. The holding places the responsibility on the parents to protect their children from inappropriate web-based content, via internet filters or other parental means.
Cases involving child pornography and other internet crimes are very serious and often complicated. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist you in defending against these prosecutions. Marc Neff has successfully handled many of these cases in both state and federal courts. Additionally, he conducts seminars for other attorneys on the most recent changes in the laws regarding child pornography and internet crime. For a confidential consultation, Mr. Neff can be contacted at (215) 563-9800 or via the internet at email@example.com