Presently, America has three laws regulating the Internet that are not deemed unconstitutional. They are the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and the Children’s Internet Protection Act. These three laws concern copyright protection, children’s privacy right protection and protecting children from the effects of the obscene content found on the Internet.
In 1998 Congress passed the DMCA. Its purpose is to restrict certain types of art, equipment, and services allowing the purchase of copyright products. One of the more famous cases related to this law occurred in 2007 when international media magnate Viacom sued YouTube and its parent company Google for 100 million dollars in compensation. YouTube had 160,000 of Viacom’s programs on its website and in doing so largely violated the copyright act. YouTube eventually won the case.
COPPA was passed by Congress and became a federal law in 2001. The law aims to regulate any Internet user less than thirteen years of age and any commercial website or content provider who would share private information. The commercial website and content providers must adhere to a time restriction and obtain the consent of the parent or the legal guardian of the child if they wish to gather that child’s private information. Since the law has been passed, many websites forgo having users under the age of thirteen due to the extra paperwork they would incur. Big companies like Xanga and UMG were outraged by the law and incurred fines when they failed to comply.
Legislators put forth a great amount of effort to pass CIPA. Congress had already targeted the legislation three times and two of those times the Supreme Court deemed the law to be unconstitutional. Finally, with great effort, they succeeded in passing the law.
In 1996, just when the Internet business started to pick up and the varied enterprises were gaining great success, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, which restricted any Internet user below the age of eighteen from being exposed to obscene content. Just as soon as President Clinton signed the bill there were a wave of attacks from both the public and the legal challenges it proposed and there was a plurality of support for the protests of free speech organizations. But in 1997 there was a unanimous verdict by the Supreme Court that the bill violated the Constitution and the principles of free speech by severely restricting adults’ ability to freely receive comments, and that the definition of “obscene” was extremely vague.
In 1998 they issued The Child Online Protection Act, which was directed to assuage the failure of The Communications Decency Act. This act would have only limited and reduced the content of commercial websites that have content providers based in America. It would have required any commercial websites that provide pornographic content to first examine the age of the website user. But in 2004 the act was still judged unconstitutional and the federal government went on to appeal the ruling. In 2009 the Supreme Court proclaimed they would not accept another appeal. That proclamation finalized the law’s failure.
After failing twice Congress decided to change its tactics. Since it is rather difficult to regulate the content providers, wouldn’t it make more sense to put pressure on the institutions that are within the government’s power? This change in strategy was the catalyst for CIPA in 2001.
Any school or library that receives federal aid for Internet usage has to install a program on their computers that restricts users from entering pornographic sites. This law also encountered challenges; for instance, in 2002 the American Library Association proposed litigation. They proclaimed that the law was unconstitutional. The district court in the state of Pennsylvania came to the same verdict. Just after the federal government made an appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the district court’s decision and declared the law did not defy the Constitution. Therefore, this is the only federal law that was upheld that regulates pornographic content on the Internet.
Thus, it is evident that America’s Internet regulation is strictly limited to protecting children and copyright laws. So then how do we address cyber rumors? If these allegations hurt people, can the law protect them? The aggrieved party has the ability to sue.
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