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The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania yesterday held the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) 47 U. S. C. §231 unconstitutional. COPA addresses preventing children’s access to online pornography. COPA, passed into law in 1998, is not to be confused with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) 15 U.S.C. §§ 6501-6508 covering the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information from children.

In 1999, the Third Circuit struck COPA down as being too broad. In 2002, the Supreme Court held the Third Circuit’s rationale insufficient and sent the case back down for further review. In 2003, the Third Circuit struck COPA down again, holding that it hindered free speech. In 2004 the Supreme Court upheld the Third Circuit’s injunction, but sent the case down for determination of COPA’s constitutionality.

The case then hit the headlines when Google refused to comply with a subpoena demanding information about what searches people had conducted. According to the Internet Cases blog, Judge Lowell Reed of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled yesterday that COPA violates both the First (free speech) and Fifth (due process) Amendments to the United States Constitution and enjoined Attorney General Gonzales from enforcing or prosecuting matters premised upon COPA.

Brett Trout

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