United States Challenges CIPA Decision

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On June 20, the United States government filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging a federal court’s ruling that the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) violated the First Amendment. The CIPA statute provided for a direct appeal from the panel decision directly to the Supreme Court.

CIPA, which had been due to go into effect July 1, would have required public libraries seeking government subsidies to install filtering software to block materials considered obscene, 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.

The statute, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 2000, was challenged last year by a number of plaintiffs including the American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. The plaintiffs argued that CIPA was unconstitutional because no filter can guarantee the absolute blocking of illegal material, nor can it guarantee that it won’t inadvertently block legal materials. On May 31, a panel of three judges of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania declared CIPA to be "facially invalid."

As of press time, no court schedule for the appeal had been set. The Supreme Court is adjourned until the first Monday of October. Those close to the case said that the appeal process could take anywhere from a year to 18 months from the time the government filed its notice on June 20. For more on CIPA, and the judges’ ruling, click here.