CIPA Declared Unconstitutional

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

On May 31, a panel of three federal judges ruled that the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) violated the First Amendment. In a press statement regarding the decision, the American Library Association said it applauded, "the panel of judges for their thoughtfulness and clear understanding of the issues at stake….Americans cannot afford to lose access to the thousands of Web sites offering legal, useful, and valuable information blocked by…filters. Because filters overblock and underblock, they restrict speech and offer a false sense of security that children are protected when they are not."

Signed into law in 2000, CIPA required the use of Internet filters for public and school libraries requesting government funding for the purpose of offering patrons access to the Internet. The purpose of the filters was to block out materials considered obscene, to be child pornography, or "harmful to minors." The law applied to libraries requesting Universal Service discounts, or "E-rate," for Internet access, Internet service, or internal connections. The law's provisions also covered libraries seeking Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds to buy computers for Internet access or to pay for Internet access. If they were to receive subsidies for the upcoming year, libraries would have had to certify compliance with CIPA by July 1, 2002.

In a 195-page decision, the judges of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania wrote: "[W] e are constrained to conclude that the library plaintiffs must prevail in their contention that CIPA requires them to violate the First Amendment rights of their patrons, and accordingly is facially invalid." Any appeal of the decision would go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, as reported by the Associated Press. -- David Grogan