Iowa House Study Bill 525 would broaden the definition of “material” in the state’s harmful to minors law to include electronic dissemination. As a result, the law would ban depictions and descriptions that are “obscene for minors” on the Internet, listservs and public chatrooms.
The bill was amended to remove the provision broadening the definition of “material.” Gov. Terry Branstad signed the amended bill into law.
The application to material generally available on the Internet is likely overbroad. It would threaten speech on the Internet that is legal for adults and neither intended nor directed to minors.
Iowa presently bans the dissemination to minors of sexual content that is illegal for them but legal for adults, as defined by the Miller/Ginsberg test. But there is a substantial body of case law striking down laws that apply this kind of law to the Internet. Courts have repeatedly ruled that such laws violate the First Amendment because they restrict the speech of adults on the Internet. Laws cannot reduce the speech of adults to only what is appropriate for minors.
The only exceptions to these decisions have been laws that were limited to speech that was intended to be communicated to a specific person that the speaker has actual knowledge, rather than general knowledge, is a minor or believes to be a minor.
- On January 12, 2012, the bill was introduced  and referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.
- Media Coalition submitted a memo in opposition  to the members of the committee on February 10, 2012. The memo explains the constitutional issues with the bill.
- The bill was substituted  with House File 2390 on February 28, 2012. The provision that broadened the definition of “material” is not included in H.F. 2390.
- The House passed the amended bill on March 8, 2012. The Senate passed the amended bill on March 26, 2012.
- On April 4, 2012, Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill into law. It goes into effect July 1, 2012.