What did it take to go to jail and be fined a minimum of $50,000 per day ? Show bare breasts, or write about playing with them on the Internet. Or, provide medical info for free. Where, in Iran? Nope, right here in the US – until Wednesday.
COPA (Child Online Protection Act), a knee-jerk law passed in 1990’s has finally died of natural causes on January 21st, when the Supreme Court pronounced it unconstitutional in a narrow 5-4 decision. They also in effect said “and don’t bother us with this anymore”, refusing to have the case revisited in the future.
I’m all for protecting the kiddies from “material harmful to minors”, but COPA was a vague legal exercise leaving everyone open to selective prosecution. Kinda like the US sodomy laws (defunct 2003), or the statutory rape laws which try to send teens to jail for having consensual sex, (apparently, if they’re of the “wrong” color) as in 2004 Dixon v. State. Come on – how many of you had a blow job in the last month? Whoever didn’t get fresh in the back seat in high school, raise your hand! Really?
Such laws make everyone guilty, allowing the government to prosecute you at will – all they need is not to like what you’re saying, or what you look like. A bad idea. COPA used such terms as “community standards” to determine what’s illegal. This is not about porn – anything “harmful to minors” according to community standards, someplace, would qualify, including safer sex info, Salon articles and the reproductions of classical art. To take it to a ridiculous extreme, this *could* mean that a community of Christian Scientists could sue WebMD for providing information about medical treatments to their children.
On a more realistic note, my sexy escort directory, for example, could have been in a heap of trouble. We show photos of sexy women (and some men and/or TSs), and a good number of photos are (the horror of horrors!) topless. Except for our lovely Erotic Art gallery, totally without the “redeeming value”… but a heap of fun!
We always did our civic duty of registering with child-blocking programs, including mature content meta tags, posting warnings and such, in order to give people a choiceto avoid our content. But just like WebMD, our site is free, and because of it the blocking has to ultimately be done on the user side. According to COPA, I could have been fined $50,000 a day for each instance of delightful naughtiness – with all the ads & the erotic art gallery, in a ballpark of million bucks per day. I wish I had a hundredth of that :-/.
You might not like the content of my web site, but the 5,000+ visits/day show that the tens of thousands of other adults do – and the Constitution guards their right to see what they please (as long as it’s not “obscene”, whatever *that* means… but that’s another rant).
By the way, have you noticed that the most of the “child protection” lawsuits end up being about sex? If I had a kid, I’d be more worried about him/her seeing people being beat up, beheaded and blown to pieces, or learning how to build a fire starting laser out of a flashlight, than finding out about the birds and bees.