ACLU v. Reno II

American Civil Liberties Union, et. al. v. Janet Reno, U.S. District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania, Case No. 98-5591, filed October 22, 1998.

Nature of the Case.  Liberal interest groups bring suit asking the federal court to hold unconstitutional the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which bans bans sending to minors over the web material that is harmful to minors.

Plaintiffs.  American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Androgyny Books, Inc. d/b/a A Different Light Bookstores, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Artnet Worldwide Corporation, Blackstripe, Addazi, Inc. d/b/a Condomania, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Free Speech Media, Internet Content Coalition,, Philadelphia Gay News, Planetout Corporation, Powell's Bookstore, Riotgrrl, Salon Internet, Inc., and West Stock, Inc.  Lead Attorneys: Ann Beeson, Christopher Hansen, John Salyer, ACLU, 125 Broad Street,
New York, NY, 10004, 212-549-2601.

Defendant.  The sole defendant is Janet Reno, in her capacity as Attorney General of the United States.  As head of the U.S. Department of Justice, she is ultimately responsible for enforcing the COPA.

Facts.  COPA bans sending to minors over the web material that is harmful to minors.  It is intended to replace the much more broadly worded Communications Decency Act, which was held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last year.  COPA allows websites to distribute pornography, but requires those websites which distribute material that is harmful to children to verify adult status through the use of credit cards, adult access codes, adult PIN numbers, or other technologies that may be developed in the future.  It employs the "harmful to minor" standard which has been upheld in the federal courts.

Issues.  The main issue is whether the COPA violates the First Amendment free speech clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The Complaint alleges four counts:

Status.  The Plaintiffs obtained a temporary restraining order on October 19, 1998.

Chronology with Links to Pleading and other Materials.

Tech Law Journal Stories.