CDA

Legal – Cases –  CDA (ACLU v. Reno)

Case Name: 
Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844 (1997), United States Supreme Court.

Description:
The Communications Decency Act (CDA) was a law passed by Congress in 1996 that sought to criminalize the “knowing” transmission of “obscene or indecent” messages to any recipient under 18.  The law was immediately challenged by a coalition of civil liberties groups.  Noteworthy in regards to filtering software was the fact that the plaintiffs relied heavily on the availability of filtering software to parents as a “less restrictive alternative” to the CDA.  The president of the filtering company SurfWatch was a prominent witness for the plaintiffs in the trial.

Outcome:
A special three-judge panel ruled the CDA was unconstitutional.  This ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that, “The CDA’s “indecent transmission” and “patently offensive display” provisions abridge “the freedom of speech” protected by the First Amendment.”  The Court noted that, “Systems have been developed to help parents control the material that may be available on a home computer with Internet access.”

Status:
Closed

Chronology & Legal Documents:
02/07/96          CDA enacted (Text of law)
02/08/96          ACLU, et. al. file complaint
02/08/96          Judge Buckwalter issues Temporary Restraining Order
02/28/96          Government reply
03/21/96          Day 1 of trial, Ann Duvall, president of SurfWatch testifies
04/29/96          DOJ and ACLU file proposed findings of fact
04/29/96          ACLU files post-trial brief
06/21/96          Three judge panel strikes down CDA
07/01/96          DOJ files appeal
10/31/96          ACLU files response
01/21/97          DOJ files brief in Supreme Court
02/20/97          ACLU files brief in Supreme Court
03/19/97          Oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court
06/26/97          Supreme Court strikes down CDA

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