The Unconstitutionality of the Communications Decency Act of 1996

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The Unconstitutionality of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 The U.S. Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 on February 1, 1996. Title V of this Act was the Communications Decency Act, or CDA, whose main goal was to regulate pornography on the Internet. It was intended to be similar to the regulations that had already been passed allowing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate indecency on radio and Television (“Communications”). According to the Center for Democracy and Technology, the CDA prohibited “posting ‘indecent’ or ‘patently offensive’ materials in a public forum on the Internet – including web pages, newsgroups, chat rooms, or online discussion lists” (“Overview”). This could have potentially come to prohibit from the Internet some classic texts and other material which, although offensive to some, is protected in print under the First Amendment. It is also important to note that child pornography, which was a reason many supported the CDA, was already illegal under laws passed before the CDA (“Overview”). For these reasons, the CDA was challenged and ruled unconstitutional in a District Court in Pennsylvania, and the Supreme Court eventually upheld that decision (“Communications”). In what could almost be considered a primary source, David L. Sobel of the University of Florida College of Law outlined many arguments against the CDA. His article in the Journal of Technology Law and Policy (University of Florida College of Law) was written after the March 21, 1996 decision in the Philadelphia, PA District Court but before the case ever went to the Supreme Court in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union on June 26, 1997 (Sobel). It is interesting to note that many of Sobel’s ar... ... middle of paper ... ...cessed 6 November 2004. http://www.cdt.org/speech/cda/ “Communications Decency Act.” Wilkipedia Online Encyclopedia. Online. Accessed 6 November 2004. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Decency_Act. Sobel, David L. “The Constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act: Censorship on the Internet.” Journal of Technology Law and Policy (University of Florida College of Law). 1:1, Spring 1996. Online. Accessed 6 November 2004. http://journal.law.ufl.edu/~techlaw/1/sobel.html Stevens, John Paul. “Opinion of the Court: Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.” Argued: March 19. 1997 --- Decided: June 26, 1997. Legal Information Institute. Online. Accessed 6 November 2004. http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/search/display.html?terms=CDA&url=/supct/html/histo rics/USSC_CR_0521_0844_ZO.html

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