Tuesday, February 18, 1997

Annoy.com Publisher files Amicus Brief in ACLU v. Reno Against the Communications Decency Act

William Bennett Turner
Rogers, Joseph, O'Donnell & Quinn
Telephone: 415/956-2828


February 18, 1997, San Francisco -- Clinton D. Fein, president of the San Francisco based multimedia firm ApolloMedia Corporation, announced today that the company has submitted an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court, in support of the challenge by the ACLU and other organizations to the constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). President Clinton signed the CDA into law in February 1996. It was found unconstitutional by a federal court in Philadelphia and the Attorney General has taken the case to the Supreme Court.

Apollomedia is joined in the amicus by Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF), a minority bar association comprised of over 500 lesbian, gay and bisexual members of the Bay Area legal community. Founded in 1980, BALIF promotes the professional interests of its members and the legal interests of the gay, lesbian and bisexual community at large.

ApolloMedia is currently a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed on January 30, 1997 in San Francisco's federal district court against Attorney General Janet Reno, challenging the constitutionality of a different provision of the Communications Decency Act. The law attacked by ApolloMedia criminalizes any "indecent" computer communications intended to "annoy" another person. The suit preceded the launching of the company's "annoy.com" web site to try to protect against criminal liability under the CDA. This "annoy" provision is a felony punishable by a fine and up to two years imprisonment.

"The issues in the Supreme Court in many ways echo the issues addressed in our current federal court challenge," said Fein, of the amicus brief, which will add ammunition to the plaintiffs' already robust challenge. "I think the issues we raise pertaining to Congress' power over the speech of ordinary citizens and to privacy, in particular, might deflect the conversation perpetuated by CDA architects and apologists from 'protecting children,' and allow us to address the real issue of censorship, which is what this is really all about."

"The CDA is the most sweeping restriction on the speech of ordinary citizens that the congress has ever attempted," said William Bennett Turner, the San Francisco lawyer who authored the amicus brief. "There are so many First Amendment defects in the law that the parties could hardly deal with them all. So ApolloMedia and BALIF are urging the Court to find, among other things, that in fact the federal government does not have a "compelling" interest in restricting "indecent" citizen speech, that the law's failure to define 'indecent' speech renders the law impermissibly vague for a criminal law, and that outlawing 'patently offensive' speech bans in all communities a wide range of sexually explicit speech that is constitutionally protected among adults, simply because it would be inappropriate for toddlers in the nation's least tolerant communities."

"You don't protect children by depriving them of information that can be life saving," added Fein. "It's time for sycophantic politicians and the media to stop using children as pawns and to educate themselves about the Internet in a manner that appropriately befits the responsibility of looking after and teaching children. Those responsibilities lie with parents, not the government."

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Clinton D. Fein
President, ApolloMedia Corporation
Telephone: 415/552-7655


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