Magazine article American Libraries

Judges' Remarks Give Optimism to Opponents in CIPA Trial. (News Fronts Washington)

Magazine article American Libraries

Judges' Remarks Give Optimism to Opponents in CIPA Trial. (News Fronts Washington)

Article excerpt

Opponents of the Children's Internet Protection Act expressed optimism at the close of the trial to determine the law's constitutionality. The three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court hearing the case openly voiced its skepticism over the law, which mandates filtering for libraries and schools that receive federal funding for Internet access.

"We're stuck right in the heart of the First Amendment when we're talking about libraries," said Third Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Edward Becker, and Judge Harvey Bartle noted during the April 4 closing arguments that "every witness has testified that the statute can't be applied according to its own terms." Reuters reported that the judges were also concerned that decisions about which Web sites should be blocked are made by anonymous corporate officials, whom Judge John Fullam called "the nameless and faceless," adding, "What right does the government have to require this kind of filtering system?"

"I am floating on air about the case we have presented," said Judith Krug, director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. "This looks very good for us." The suit was filed in March 2001 by ALA and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a coalition of library groups, health organizations, individual library patrons, and Internet publishers (AL, May 2001, p. 20-21).

The trial opened March 25 with testimony in support of the challenge from librarians Candace Morgan, associate director of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library in Vancouver, Washington; Ginnie Cooper, director of Multnomah County Public Library in Portland, Oregon; and Sally Reed, former director of the Norfolk (Va.) Public Library. The law mandates filtering for libraries and schools that receive federal funding for Internet access, and Wired online news reported March 26 that Reed testified that Norfolk was too impoverished to reject the funds. "We have most of our computers because we are so poor [we qualify for grants] ," she said. "We would then be in a position to decide whether we want to impose economic censorship on our patrons or censorship through filtering software."

Emmalyn Rood, a 16-year-old who researched her sexuality at the Multnomah library before coming out as a lesbian, said the library's optional filters blocked sites that were clearly informational. Rood was able to turn off the software, but she said that although CIPA allows an exemption for "bona fide research," she would have been reluctant to ask a librarian for help. …

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