This from the School Law Blog:
A federal appeals court Tuesday agreed with a lower court ruling that struck down as unconstitutional a 1998 law intended to protect children from sexual material and other objectionable content on the Internet.
The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia is the latest twist in a decade-long legal battle over the Child Online Protection Act. The fight has already reached the Supreme Court and could be headed back there.
The law, which has not taken effect, would bar Web sites from making harmful content available to minors over the Internet. The act was passed the year after the Supreme Court ruled that another law intended to protect children from explicit material online — the Communications Decency Act — was unconstitutional in the landmark case Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union...
The Center for Democracy & Technology is a civil liberties group that filed briefs against the law.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled unanimously in American Civil Liberties Union v. Mukasey that the Child Online Protection Act violates the First and Fifth Amendments on its face.
The law, enacted in 1998 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a broader effort by Congress to protect children from sexually explicit content on the Web, requires commercial Web sites to use age-verification technologies to restrict minors from accessing such materials.
Today's Third Circuit ruling affirms a federal district court that struck down the law after a full trial. "We are quite certain that notwithstanding Congress’s laudable purpose in enacting COPA, the Government has not met its burden of showing that it is narrowly tailored so as tosurvive a strict scrutiny analysis and thereby permit us to hold it to be constitutional," the appeals court said.
It said that the government's promotion of content-filtering software would be a less-restrictive alternative that COPA. Meanwhile, COPA should not be confused with the Children's Internet Protection Act, or CIPA, a similar law that has more direct bearing on schools' efforts to protect children from inappropriate Web content.
CIPA requires recipients of federal technology funds, such as E-rate discounts for telecommunications, to adopt Internet-safety policies that include the installation of filtering software to block out obscenity, child pornography, and other material that is "harmful to minors."
In 2003, in United States v. American Library Association, the Supreme Court upheld CIPA in a challenge to its application to public libraries that receive federal technology funds.