Iowa Senate File 2039


Summary

Iowa Senate File 2039 would add “electronic communication devices” to Iowa’s existing law barring dissemination of obscene for minors material to minors by telephone. “Electronic communication device” is defined to include any computer, table, smartphone or other device that allows one to access the internet.

We oppose on the bill to the extent it is applied to general communication on the internet.

Status

The bill is in the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

Analysis

Governments can restrict access to adult obscenity on the internet since the speech is illegal for everyone. However, under Iowa law, “obscene material” is define as material that is obscene for minors rather than material that is obscene for adults. This is a crucial distinction because it means that the material is still protected by the First Amendment for adults and cannot be made illegal on the internet even if the intent is to protect minors.

There is a substantial body of case law striking down laws that criminalize “obscene for minors” speech that is generally available on the internet. Courts have repeatedly held that such laws violate the First Amendment because they restrict the speech of adults on the internet to what is acceptable for minors. The courts have also held that there are less restrictive and more effective means for preventing minors from accessing such content that do not infringe on the speech of adults. They have also ruled that the law violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which reserves to Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.

History

  • The bill was introduced [2] on January 21, 2016 and referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
  • On February 16, 2016, Media Coalition submitted a legal memo [1] to the committee, explaining the constitutional issues with the bill. The memo was submitted ahead of a scheduled hearing on the bill the same day.

Last updated: Feb 17, 2016