Louisiana House Bill 153


Summary

Louisiana House Bill 153 would require anyone in the state who publishes material harmful to minors on the Internet to make every visitor to their site “electronically acknowledge and attest” to being 18 years old or older prior to accessing such material.

A violation is punishable by a fine of $10,000.

Status

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the bill into law. It goes into effect August 1, 2015.

On November 4, 2015, Media Coalition filed a legal challenge to the law on behalf of some of its members and Louisiana booksellers and publishers. The case is Garden District Book Shop v. Caldwell.

Analysis

»  The bill makes it a crime even if the person accessing “harmful to minors” material is an adult. It is not limited to minors perusing the “harmful to minors” content. Failing to have this “acknowledgement” is a crime even if there are no minors on the website.

»  It places a substantial burden on the First Amendment rights of adults. The bill requires a website to segregate content and then “ID” every adult before accessing that content. Because it makes visitors provide personal information before being allowed access, it deprives adults from being able to browse a website anonymously. It also forces a website to pejoratively identify content as illegal for minors, which creates stigma on that content, even though speech is legal for both adults and minors until a court deems it otherwise.

»  It also creates practical problems for websitesWebsites have to create the “ID” system, and they must find a way to store that information in order to avoid being prosecuted in the future. But there is no instruction in the legislation on what the “ID” system should be — whether requiring visitors to click a button to “acknowledge and attest” would be enough or whether they need to provide more credible proof of their age. It does not explain what information the websites must gather from each visitor and how long to keep that information or in what fashion.

History

  • On March 25, 2015, the bill was pre-filed [5] and referred to the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice.
  • Media Coalition submitted a memo in opposition [4] on April 13, 2015, explaining the constitutional issues with the bill.
  • The bill was amended [6] to create an exception for “bona fide news or public interest broadcast, website, video, report, or event.” On May 6, 2015, the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice recommended that the bill be passed as amended.
  • The House passed the bill on May 13, 2015 and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
  • On May 25, 2015, Media Coalition sent a memo [3] to the members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, explaining the constitutional issues with the bill.
  • The Senate Committee on Judiciary recommended that the bill be passed.
  • On May 28, 2015, Media Coalition sent a memo [2] to the full Senate, explaining the constitutional issues with the bill.
  • On June 3, 2015, the Senate passed the bill. The bill was sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal for his signature.
  • On June 9, 2015, Media Coalition sent a letter [1] to Governor Jindal, asking him to veto the bill.
  • On June 23, 2015, Gov. Jindal signed the bill into law. It goes into effect August 1, 2015.

Subsequent litigation

On November 4, 2015, Media Coalition filed a legal challenge to the law on behalf of some of its members and Louisiana booksellers and publishers. The lawsuit argues that the law violates the First Amendment by imposing substantial burdens on booksellers and publishers and by depriving older minors of access to material they have a constitutional right to access.

Visit the case page for Garden District Book Shop v. Caldwell for more information »


Last updated: Nov 4, 2015