Monday, December 7, 1998

CDA Back in Supreme Court - Appeals Federal Court Ruling



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

Michael Traynor
Cooley Godward LLP
Telephone: 415/693-2000

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


December 7, 1998, San Francisco -- San Francisco based multimedia firm ApolloMedia Corporation, today appealed to the Supreme Court a decision handed down by a federal court on September 23, 1998 in San Francisco. ApolloMedia filed a lawsuit against Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States, challenging the constitutionality of a provision of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) on January 30, 1997. The lawsuit, which was filed concurrently with the launch of the company's controversial and critically acclaimed "" web site, was heard by the court on October 20, 1997. The CDA made the communication of anything "indecent" with the intent to "annoy" a felony punishable by a fine and up to two years imprisonment.

In a divided ruling, the federal court upheld the government's interpretation of the statute, that the word "indecent" is limited to "obscene" material. The court acknowledged that the right to communicate indecent material with intent to annoy someone over the Internet is constitutionally protected, which was one of ApolloMedia's goals. The court stopped short, however of declaring the statute unconstitutional, choosing instead to interpret its meaning narrowly. Obscenity is not constitutionally protected.

ApolloMedia's appeal asks the Supreme Court to strike down the "indecent" as a violation of the First Amendment.

"This medium is too internationally important to both communications and commerce to be governed by such a narrow and tortured interpretation of the law," said Clinton Fein, president of ApolloMedia. "Our legal, social and political landscape is dominated by the pedantic parsing of words by the President, lofty rhetoric by congress about upholding the constitution and an unquestioning willingness by the media to buy it. If, in this climate, a federal court can find this law constitutional, they leave us no other acceptable choice but to exhaust the appropriate remedies."

"Laws ought to mean what they say," said William Bennett Turner, of Rogers, Joseph, O'Donnell & Quinn, one of the First Amendment experts representing ApolloMedia. " Instead of rewriting the law, the district court should have forthrightly condemned it as unconstitutional. We're asking the Supreme Court to make it clear, for the entire nation, that congress can't outlaw "indecent" speech, whether it "annoys" some government official or not."

" Judge Illston was right in saying, ' This is a criminal statute which applies to speech on the Internet, an international communication medium expected to have over 200 million users next year. Such a statute should mean exactly what it says, so that users will know what the rules are.' "said Michael Traynor, of Cooley Godward LLP, another First Amendment expert also representing ApolloMedia.

More information about the Supreme Court appeal and original lawsuit is available on the web site


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