American Library Association v. Pataki

969 F. Supp. 160 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)

Summary:
In 1997, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York struck down a state law that would have applied New York’s harmful to minors statute to the Internet.

History:
In 1996, New York enacted a law that restricts the transmission of material that is harmful to minors on any computer communication system. Media Coalition submitted a memo urging Governor George Pataki to veto the bill because it violates First Amendment rights.

In January 1997, Media Coalition brought a legal challenge on behalf of most of its members along with ACLU and other plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York The lawsuit asserted that given the nature of the Internet, speakers cannot discern the age of people who access their messages, so speakers will be forced to limit what they say to what is appropriate for a minor or risk prosecution. Furthermore, the lawsuit argued that the law violates the Commerce Clause because it attempts to regulate commerce occurring outside New York.

On June 23, 1997, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska held [1] that the New York law applying the state’s harmful to minors statute to the Internet violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The judge also ruled that the statute is unconstitutionally overbroad, because it prohibits a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech. The state did not appeal the ruling.

Plaintiffs:
American Library Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free ExpressionAssociation of American Publishers, Freedom to Read Foundation, Interactive Digital Software Association (now the Entertainment Software Association), Magazine Publishers of America (now the Association of Magazine Media), New York Library Association, Westchester Library System, BiblioBytes, Public Access Networks Corporation, ECHO, New York City Net, Art on the Net, Peacefire, American Civil Liberties Union