Lenny Bruce, first person jailed for swearing in public EFF Free Speech Online Blue Ribbon Campaign

Your Right To Free Speech At Risk

"No man's Life, Liberty or Happiness is safe while the legislature is in session."
"Pro is to Con as Progress is to Congress."

The Communications Decency Act (CDA) is unconstitutional. So says the United States Supreme Court, unanimously. So said a panel of three Federal Judges, previously. Why couldn't the Congress see this in the first place, instead of pandering to a vocal minority of religious zealots?

I am in favor of free and unfettered speech on the Internet and everywhere else. There are no dangerous ideas; only dangerous actions. I think this article from Slate (Microsoft's online magazine) also makes this point clearly.

Now, we have to protect our right to privacy from the control freaks in the Law and Order industry, who want to restrict the domestic availability of encryption software and devices. Off to the courts again!

The Congress passed, and President Clinton signed into law, the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996. Among its provisions is a patently unconstitutional section of law called "The Communications Decency Act" (CDA). The CDA clearly violates the first amendment to the Constitution of United States of America by restricting freedom of speech online. This legislation was introduced and carried by Senator James Exon (D-Nebraska).

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and Clarinet Communications are among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit (ACLU, et alia versus Janet Reno, United States Attorney General), filed almost immediately after President Clinton signed the act, which has as its goal having the CDA declared unconstitutional. If you are a U.S. Citizen, please join me in showing your support for the U.S. Constitution and your rights by supporting the ACLU and EFF in this lawsuit.

On Feb 15th 1996, Federal Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the U.S. Department of Justice which enjoins them from enforcing the provisions of the CDA against only "indecent" material, but not enjoining them from enforcing the CDA against "obscene" materials. The order will remain in effect until the case is heard before and ruled upon by a panel of three federal judges.

On Feb 26th, 1996, the Center for Democracy and Technology organized the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition which filed a lawsuit which complements the one filed by the ACLU, et alia. This new lawsuit also seeks to have the CDA declared unconstitutional, and enjoin the U.S. Department of Justice from enforcing the CDA, permanently. The list of plaintiffs is long and illustrious, and, to my great pleasure, includes my employer, Apple Computer!

You should also contact your senators and representative to express your feelings about this unconstitutional law which attempts to restrict your freedom. As has been said many times, what part of "Congress shall make no law..." did they not understand? Those members of Congress who voted in favor of the CDA itself, and the Telecommunications Reform Act while the CDA was part of it, have clearly violated their oaths of office, since, as part of the oath, they swear to uphold the Constitution.

You can read a more pungent comment about the Congress and the CDA, written by Steve Russell, a retired Trial Judge from the state of Texas.

I also urge you to support Senate Bill 1567, introduced by the honorable Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), and the honorable Senator Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin), to repeal the CDA. I watched the Senate debate over the CDA on C-SPAN2 last fall. Both Senator Leahy and Senator Feingold gave impassioned speeches on the floor of the Senate, urging their colleagues not to pass the CDA. They really are friends of the Internet.

By contrast, and to my personal dismay, both of my senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Barbara Boxer (D-California) voted in favor of the CDA. Unless they redeem themselves from my point of view on this issue, neither of them deserves my vote for re-election, and I will work to see them both defeated.

Erik E. Fair <fair@clock.org>
September 9, 1997