Another First Amendment Win in Ohio

April 22, 2010 -

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, Ohio has ruled that a state statute, which imposes penalties for disseminating sexually-explicitly material to minors, cannot be applied to open communications, such as websites, public chatrooms or email-based listservs and mailing lists.

In American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) v. Strickland, the Court ruled (PDF) that the law should apply only to “personal directed” communication—such as person-to-person email or a private chatroom—“between an adult and a person that the adult knows or should know is a minor.”

The San Francisco Examiner previously noted the importance of the case to a variety of online sellers, including videogame retailers:

The group had argued the law could be applied broadly to online material and erode the constitutional free speech rights of online booksellers, newspaper publishers and video game dealers. Technology, they say, can't always keep the harmful information from children.

The decision follows Ohio’s Supreme Court clarifying a pair of specific questions relevant to the case earlier this year.

ABFFE President Chris Finan commented on the decision:

The federal court's narrow construction of the Ohio statute recognizes that the First Amendment protects the right of adults to use websites and other electronic means for communications that might be inappropriate in a one-to-one communication with a minor.

"We should certainly have in place adequate legal safeguards to shield children from objectionable content, but those safeguards cannot unreasonably interfere with the rights of adults to have access to materials that are protected by the First Amendment,” added Media Coalition General Counsel Michael Bamberger.


Comments

Re: Another First Amendment Win in Ohio

My personal opinion is that obsenity laws in general are unconstitutional and should be scapped altogether. Don't get me wrong, i definetly don't think young children should be exposed to sexually explicit material but then again young children don't seek out that material to being with and it's the sole responsibility of parents to make sure that their children aren't exposed to media they find unsuitable or inapproriate for them, not the nanny-state.

 "No law means no law" - Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

"No law means no law" - Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

Re: Another First Amendment Win in Ohio

Long term they probably will be overturned at some point, though it will probably be quite some time.  Right now the country is actually getting less comfortable with sex rather then more so it would not be a good time for a judge to obey the constitution over tradition/precedent.  Coupled with the unwillingness of people to fight them lest they be pained as perverts/pedophiles/whatever, leads to less backlash against them then there should be.

It will not be an easy fight though.  Look at how much trouble there is over 2nd amendment fights, and those groups are MUCH better positioned then 1st amendment ones, esp 1st amendment for adult content groups.

Re: Another First Amendment Win in Ohio

Personally i'd love to see another Free Speech absolutist like Hugo Black or William O. Douglas put on SCOTUS or even a near absolutist like William J. Brennan but i doubt that it's going to happen. The loss of Stevens (he believes that obsenity cannot be legally defined in a narrow enough and non-vague manner and therefore it can't be barred) on the Supreme Court is pretty bad as he is a libertarian when it comes to most Free Speech issues and i hope Obama picks someone with a very pro-free speech record to replace him.

 "No law means no law" - Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

"No law means no law" - Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

Re: Another First Amendment Win in Ohio

Always a happy way when freedom of speech gets a win.

http://www.magicinkgaming.com/

Re: Another First Amendment Win in Ohio

"The group had argued the law could be applied broadly to online material and erode the constitutional free speech rights of online booksellers, newspaper publishers and video game dealers."

 

Hate to say it, but that might have been part of the point behind the law.

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