Press Release: Internet Harmful to Minors Statute Held Unconstitutional

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 26, 2002

In a lawsuit brought by a broad array of media and civil liberties plaintiffs, a United States District Court in Tucson, Arizona held unconstitutional and permanently enjoined the enforcement of an Arizona statute criminalizing the intentional or knowing transmission over the Internet to a minor of material considered “harmful to minors” as defined by Arizona law. ACLU v. Napolitano, No. CIV 00-0505TUC AM. The Court, holding the statute unconstitutional under both the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and its First Amendment, found the statute overbroad, unconstitutionally vague and violative of the Commerce Clause because Arizona has no legitimate interest in protecting persons outside of Arizona from speech that Arizona deems to be harmful to minors.

The plaintiffs, who filed the suit in the summer of 2000, included Media Coalition members American Booksellers Foundation For Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Inc., Freedom to Read Foundation, Inc., Magazine Publishers of America, National Association of Recording Merchandisers, Periodical and Book Association of America, Publishers Marketing Association, Recording Industry Association of America, Inc., and Video Software Dealers Association. Also plaintiffs were the ACLU and a number of websites. While the Arizona legislature last year amended the law after the lawsuit had commenced in an apparent attempt to avoid the law being invalidated, the federal court’s February 19, 2002 order held that the further amendment was unconstitutional as well.

Michael A. Bamberger of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in New York, one of the counsel for plaintiffs, stated, “We are gratified but not surprised by the result. Similar laws have been uniformly held unconstitutional, including those in New York, New Mexico, Virginia and Michigan.”

For further information, contact Michael A. Bamberger at 212-768-6756 or David Horowitz 212-587-4025.  If you would like to speak with one of the plaintiffs, you may call Christopher Finan, President, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, 212-587-4025.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently argued a Supreme Court challenge to a federal version of an Internet “harmful to minors” law in Ashcroft v. ACLU.  A ruling in that case is expected this summer.  For more information, go to http://www.aclu.org/issues/cyber/hmcl.html or contact Emily Whitfield at 212-549-2566 or ewhitfield@aclu.org.