Patricia Nell Warren

Breaking News: COPA Died Today

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | January 21, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: ACLU, censorship, Child Online Protection Act, free speech, Internet censorship

Timing is everything. On the very first day of Obama's administration, the U.S. Supreme Court announced the definitive demise of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). The ACLU's lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of this law has been grinding along like a glacier for 10 years now. COPA would have made it a federal crime to sell anything on the Web to minors that could be deemed "harmful" to them. Today, after many backings and fillings in the court system, the high court said that it would not hear the government's latest of many appeals.

My publishing company, Wildcat Press, and I were among the LGBT entities involved with this ACLU lawsuit, as well as with the first lawsuit of its kind, namely the one against the Communications Decency Act (CDA). This one was filed in 1996, and took a similar tack on "protecting" minors from "indecency" on the Web. The U.S. Supreme Court found the CDA unconstitutional also.

Wildcat's position was this: these two bills were supposedly aimed at hard-core porn but they were so broadly written that they would be used to criminalize the commercial provision of all kinds of legitimate content to minors on the Internet, whether health information or literature. And such laws definitely would be used by ultraconservatives to limit availability of LGBT content on the Web. For this reason, we felt that it was important for us, as a gay-owned small press, to participate in these lawsuits. The Philadelphia Gay News was also involved.

The Supreme Court decision puts the onus where it belongs -- on parents, who have the right to use software filters to try keeping their minor kids from viewing material that they disapprove of.

The CDA was signed by President Clinton, showing that Democrats can be as wrong-headed about censorship as Republicans. I'm sure that the blue-noses in Congress have another nasty censorship bill waiting in the wings. Let's hope that President Obama and his administration will be more censorship-savvy than the Clinton administration was.

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Glad to hear it, Patricia, not only for you but for all of us who at various times sought out information on the net.

Coming out late in life, I found the internet invauable; had the information on Lesbian living, Lesbian communities, Lesbian support been unavailable, as it would have been for sure had the act been upheld and had history turned out differently (President Palin) these things would not have been available for those in similiar situations arriving later.

I didn't come out late in life. I pretty much axed the closet door into splinters at fourteen, but that happened back in 1978. In smalltown northern Michigan (Yes, I was a smalltown boy), there was precious little information for me to build a role model from unless I wanted to read between the lines of People magazine's tiny blurb about The Village People. I happened to be lucky enough to discover this wildly romantic book filled with positive images of gay men. It was some little number 1 bestseller, I forget the name, sadly from Bantam books back then and not Wildcat Press.

The point is that in this post modern day with internet information at the tips of fingers of people questioning their position in life and looking for positive role models, it's ridiculous that any government agency feels the need to step in and be prohibitive. I think the right wing moralists are so pissed off that they can't book burn all lgtbq internet information that attempting to pass lynch mob legislation is their only recourse. Needless to say, they could only impact US based servers, effectively punishing America's gay citizens and business owners. I know Bill let us down in more ways than one, but it's difficult to find any politician with backbone these days. Let's hope we just helped installed one in office.

I'm glad to hear that at least some measure of common sense is being applied in the hallowed halls of the blind lady. And speaking of the blind lady, would some talented gay fashionista please stitch the woman a new frock: It's so time we updated our justice system.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 21, 2009 11:22 PM

Thanks Patricia for your contribution to Freedom. It might interest you to know that I have made acquaintance with a chain book store owner here in Thailand. In twenty years they censor nothing unless, (if you have seen the news) it is considered offensive to the monarchy. Even then, the king typically commutes the sentences of those who are foreigners. I hope that will happen in the present case soon.

Yeah, leaving the onus of deciding what may be "harmful" to a minor should not be left to the least common denominator ideas of our government and the religiofacists who influence it.

I mean to them, some of my screes about the pope or the religiofacists would likley fall under the catagory of 'harmful' to the sensitive minds of children, at least in their eyes.

Courageous SiStar,
Your lifework is a action in movement and education to children and families. Your article details ways we can continue the links in the grand circle. Your ethics and example are humbling, thank you.


This is good news in the battle against censorship.