Ohio Governor Bob Taft Will Sign House Bill 8

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Ohio Governor Bob Taft will sign House Bill 8 [H.B. 8], according to a number of sources close to the situation. The proposed legislation amends Ohio's sex offence law to include computer-based material that is deemed harmful to minors. This could include such things as sexually explicit content or movie violence. There is concern among booksellers that this could be construed to include material with sexual content sold on their Web sites. (For earlier coverage, click here).

There had been indications two weeks ago that Governor Taft might veto H.B. 8 -- despite publicly supporting the bill -- due to a similar Arizona statute that was declared unconstitutional in late February, in a lawsuit won by the Media Coalition, which represents the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), among other media and civil liberty groups.

Regardless, the Ohio governor will publicly sign H.B. 8 sometime in the near future (a date has not yet been determined).

"It's unfortunate that the governor of Ohio has decided to ignore the repeated rulings around the country that have found this approach to Internet regulation to be censorship," said Chris Finan, president of ABFFE. "They leave us no alternative but to go to court."

A Media Coalition lawsuit shouldn't come as a surprise to Governor Taft. Already, Michael Bamberger, legal counsel for the Media Coalition, has sent the Ohio governor two letters noting that lawsuits aimed against similar Internet laws have overturned the laws in court -- and have proven expensive for a number of states. For example, lawsuits waged against the states of New York and New Mexico cost those states $450,000 and $460,000, respectively, in legal fees and costs to plaintiffs.

Bamberger's letter also explained that Media Coalition members believe that amendments in the bill are too vague to be constitutional, and the bill would threaten commerce on the Internet. Furthermore, H.B. 8 would keep adults from being able to view First Amendment-protected materials on the Internet. -- David Grogan