CIEC Update No. 15 - CDA Battle Moves to Supreme Court! (fwd)

Mon, 4 Nov 1996 12:48:30 +1000 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1996 17:54:20 -0500
From: Bob Palacios <>
Subject: CIEC Update No. 15 - CDA Battle Moves to Supreme Court!
Resent-Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1996 17:54:32 -0500

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Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition Update No. 15
October 31, 1996
CIEC UPDATES are intended for members of the Citizens Internet
Empowerment Coalition. CIEC Updates are written and edited by the
Center for Democracy and Technology ( This
document may be reposted as long as it remains in its entirety.

** 55,000 Netizens Vs. U.S. Department of Justice. **
* The Fight To Save Free Speech Online *


o Battle For Free Speech in Cyberspace Moves to Supreme Court
o What You Can Do - Join the CIEC!
o How to Remove Yourself From This List
o More Information on CIEC and the Center for Democracy and Technology


Documents in Supreme Court Appeal

The Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition (CIEC) today filed papers with
the Supreme Court in the landmark legal challenge to the Communications
Decency Act, formally beginning the next phase in the battle over the
future of the First Amendment in Cyberspace. Today's papers were filed
response to the government's jurisdictional statement submitted in late
September, and represents the first indication of the substantive arguments
in the appeal stage of the case.

Curiously, in its jurisdictional statement, the Department of Justice has
attempted to raise new issues not addressed by the lower court ruling.
Such a move by the government to introduce new arguments at the appeal
stage is highly unusual, and illustrates that the government intends
vigorously defend the Internet censorship law.

The Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition (CIEC) is a broad coalition of
over 50 groups representing the entire breadth of the Internet community,
from online service and Internet service providers, libraries, publishers,
software companies, public interest organizations, and nearly 55,000
individual Internet users. The CIEC legal challenge to the Communications
Decency Act, formally known as ALA v. DOJ, was consolidated with a separate
challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and 20 other
plaintiffs (ACLU vs. Reno). The cases were argued together in Philadelphia,
and the legal teams remain in close coordination.

The Communications Decency Act (CDA), passed by Congress as part of the
telecommunications reform bill in February 1996, would have imposed huge
fines and prison terms on anyone who sends or displays "indecent" or
"patently offensive" material in a public forum on the Internet. The CIEC
and ACLU challenged the law, and in June of 1996 a special three judge
panel in Philadelphia ruled the CDA unconstitutional.

The papers filed today were filed in response to the government's
jurisdictional statement filed on September 29 asking the Supreme Court to
overturn the Philadelphia decision. In an unusual move for an appeal, the
Government has also asked the Supreme Court to consider new arguments not
made during the lower court hearings, including a contention that the CDA
should be construed to cover only those who provide so-called "commercial
pornography". In essence, the government is asking the Supreme Court to
re-write the law -- something that the Court has been reluctant to do in
previous cases.

Although plaintiffs in Supreme Court appeals traditionally ask the Court to
simply affirm the lower court ruling without a hearing, the CIEC recognizes
that the challenge to the CDA is a case of first impression on the
application of the First Amendment in cyberspace, and fully expects that
the Court will consider the case. As such, the CIEC has asked the court to
hear the appeal and to carefully consider the detailed factual record
created in the Philadelphia case, including:

* The Internet is a unique communications medium which deserves first
amendment protections AT LEAST as broad as those enjoyed by the print

* When it comes to otherwise constitutionally protected speech,
individual users -- not the federal government -- are the best and
most appropriate judges of what material is and is not appropriate for
themselves and for their children.

* User control technologies such as SurfWatch, CyberPatrol, and PICS are
the only effective and constitutional method of limiting minors access
to objectionable material on the Internet.

(the full text of the CIEC brief, the Philadelphia ruling, and other
relevant background information on the case is available on the Citizens
Internet Empowerment Coalition Web Page.


If you use the Internet to send email, post to usenet newsgroups, maintain
your own world wide web page, or participate in online discussion forums,
you could face serious prison time and huge fines under the CDA if someone,
somewhere, considers the material you put online to be "indecent" or
"patently offensive".

Since February of 1996, nearly 55,000 individual Internet Users have joined
the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition. The large number of
individual Internet users is intended to illustrate to the Court, the
press, and the public that each and every Internet user is a publisher and
cold be liable under the CDA.

If you haven't done so already, please take a moment to become a part of
this landmark case:

Visit the CIEC web site for details --

It's fast, it's free, and it will help us preserve the future of the
Internet as a viable means of free expression, education, and commerce.


The 27 plaintiffs in the case include: American Library Association, Inc.;
American Online, Inc.; American Booksellers Association, Inc.; American
Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; American Society of Newspaper
Editors; Apple Computer, Inc.; Association of American Publishers, Inc.;
Association of Publishers, Editors and Writers; Citizens Internet
Empowerment Coalition; Commercial Internet eXchange; CompuServe
Incorporated.; Families Against Internet Censorship; Freedom to Read
Foundation, Inc.; Health Sciences Libraries Consortium; HotWired Ventures
LLC; Interactive Digital Software Association; Interactive Services
Association; Magazine Publishers of America, Inc.; Microsoft Corporation;
Microsoft Network; National Press Photographers Association; NETCOM On-Line
Communication Services, Inc.; Newspaper Association of America; Opnet,
Inc.; Prodigy Services Company; Wired Ventures, Ltd.; and, the Society of
Professional Journalists Ltd.

How to Remove Yourself From This List

As CIEC members, you have been invited to join this list in order to
receive news updates and other information relevant to the CIEC challenge
to the Communications Decency Act.

If you ever want to remove yourself from this list, send email to

with 'unsubscribe ciec-members' in the SUBJECT LINE (w/o the 'quotes').
Leave the body of your message blank.

For More Information

For more information on the CIEC challenge, including the text of the
original complaint filed in early '96 and other relevant materials:

* World Wide Web --
* General Information about CIEC --
* Copy of the Original Complaint --

* Specific Questions Regarding the
Coalition, including Press Inquiries --

* General information about the
Center for Democracy and Technology --

end ciec-update.15