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Ohio's New Internet Child Porn Law Challenged

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By Dick Kelsey, Newsbytes

07 May 2002, 3:19 PM CST

The expansion of Ohio's child-pornography statute to include the Internet was met with a legal challenge even as the governor signed a bill extending current law to the Net.

Media Coalition Inc., representing publishers, bookstores, video retailers and a sexuality Web site for the disabled, on Monday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court at Dayton, Ohio, challenging the constitutionality of the law.

The lawsuit, which seeks an injunction to block enforcement after it takes effect Aug. 6, says it violates the First Amendment and the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

Gov. Bob Taft signed the bill to "expand the definition of 'material' in (Ohio's) Sex Offense Laws to include any kind of electronic images and computer equipment, including the Internet," a news release said.

The extension includes electronic images on the Internet, computer monitors, hard drives and any kind of data-storage device in the state's 28-year-old law making it a crime to supply inappropriate material to minors.

'This law has nothing to do with child porn, this law has nothing to do with child predators, despite what the governor says was the purpose," said coalition co-counsel Michael Bamberger, an attorney from the New York law firm of Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal. "That's not what it talks about, and one can easily draft a constitutional law that covers that."

The Constitution's commerce clause also prohibits laws such as the new Ohio statute that "conceivably imposes Ohio standards on persons posting Web pages or sending messages in any other state," he said.

Similar laws in Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Vermont and Virginia have been struck down as unconstitutional, Bamberger said, but Taft stands behind the legislation.

"The governor feels that it's a good bill and that it will withstand a court challenge," Taft spokesman Joe Andrews told Newsbytes.

Citing a National Research Council report published last week, Bamberger said passing laws is not the way to protect children from pornography and other material on the Internet that parents deem inappropriate.

While the report, ordered by Congress under a 1998 law, acknowledges a role for legislation and technology in protecting children from harmful material online, it says that educational efforts to instill good Internet habits represent one of the most promising approaches to shielding children from inappropriate material.

Washtech reporter Brian Krebs contributed to this report.

Reported by, .

15:19 CST
Reposted 15:34 CST


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