The battle of Children's Online Protection Act

Federal court hears arguments in battle over whether COPA law is Constitutional.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

The argument over whether the Children's Online Protection Act (COPA) is Constitutional is being debated once again in federal court, reports eSchool News.

The American Civil Liberties Union presented arguments against COPA, a law which states that online posting of material deemed "harmful to children, is illegal" is unenforcible and could restrict legitimate material published online. The law has never been enforced, as its legality has been litigated in the courts since its passage.

The U.S. Department of Justice argues that the law is aimed at commercial pornographers who use sexually explicit "teasers" to lure online customers. These teasers appear everywhere on the Internet and, law enforcement claims, often end up being viewed by children.

The current law requires adults to use some sort of access code or a credit-card number, to view content considered "harmful to children." The law also imposes a a $50,000 fine and six-month prison term on commercial web-site operators who publish such content, which is to be defined by "contemporary community standards".

"The evidence will show that a shocking amount of pornography slips through to children," said Eric Beane, a government attorney.

The ACLU argues that a better way to keep pornographic content away from children are Internet filters.

The case achieved notoriety last year when the Justice Dept subpoenaed a large amount of user searches from Internet companies in an attempt to show that filters don't work. Google fought the subpoena and won.

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