Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc.            Press Release, 13 June 1996



A United States Federal Court has unanimously struck down controversial
Internet censorship legislation, declaring that the Communications
Decency Act (CDA) violates the First Amendment.  "As the most
participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves
the highest protection from government intrusion", the court declared
in its conclusion.

Australian users remain under threat, however.  Censorship legislation
proposed by the NSW state government (and to be offered as a model to
other states) has been described by a US free speech advocate as "the
Communications Decency Act on steroids".

Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. welcomed the United States
decision.  "This is great news for supporters of free speech
everywhere", said EFA spokesperson Danny Yee.  "Australia has no
constitutional protection for free speech, but this is still a boost
for our campaign to stop the NSW proposals.  The NSW Attorney-General
has so far refused to consult with the Internet community, but we hope
he will at least examine the CDA judgement."

Since the physical location of Internet hardware is largely irrelevant
to Internet users, the United States decision has more direct
consequences for Australia.  "It makes it totally impossible for
Australian governments to turn the Internet into a kindergarten",
commented Yee.  "And Australian companies have somewhere they can move
their data and businesses if regulation here is too burdensome."

The United States decision is timely.  The Standing Committee of
Attorneys-General is to meet in Sydney on July 11th to consider the NSW
censorship proposals; the Australian Broadcasting Authority's report on
Internet regulation is due to appear on June 30th.

     Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. - http://www.efa.org.au/
      representing Internet users concerned with civil liberties
      Sydney Spokesperson:   Danny Yee  --  [email protected]
      +61 2 351 5159 (work)               +61 2 9955 9898 (home) 

Background: EFF press release follows

Federal Court Rules Communications Decency Act Unconstitutional

Groups challenging the law prepare for government appeal to the Supreme Court

Electronic Frontier Foundation              
PRESS RELEASE                                       

Philadelphia -- "Just as the strength of the Internet is chaos, so the
strength of our liberty depends upon the chaos and cacophony of the
unfettered speech the First Amendment protects."

With these ringing words, a Philadelphia federal court has struck down a law
today that would have criminalized constitutionally protected speech on the
Internet and other online forums.

In what civil libertarians are hailing as a victory for everyone who uses 
computer communications, a three-judge panel in Philadelphia's federal 
court ruled in a unanimous decision that the controversial 
"Communications Decency Act" (CDA) violates the U.S. constitutional 
guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press.

"First of all, we are pleased to see the court vindicate our vision of the Net
as a medium protected by the First Amendment," said Lori Fena, executive
director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a watchdog group
established to protect civil liberties, and promote responsibility, in
computer communications. "Secondly, we are delighted that the court has gone
beyond striking down the law, and has stated positively what constitutional
principles must govern any attempt to regulate the most democratic mass
medium the world has ever seen." 

Said EFF Chairman Esther Dyson: "This is a day for individual citizens, for
families, and for public and private organizations online to celebrate." 

"The judges recognized that CDA was a wholly inappropriate exercise of
governmental power under the Constitution," said Mike Godwin, EFF staff
counsel. "The law would have abridged one of the freedoms that Americans
treasure most, and a freedom that is central to any democratic society," he

Godwin applauded the members of the coalition that challenged the law in
federal court. "We and the other plaintiffs persuaded them that the
government cannot constitutionally impose this sort of overreaching, and
duplicative regulation of content in the online world," Godwin said.

Dyson stated that the decision stands for one of EFF's principal positions
regarding free speech online: "We believe in free speech at the source -- and
in the empowerment of any audience for that speech to control what they see.

"This decision takes the responsibility for controlling and accessing speech
on the Net out of the hands of government and puts it back in the hands of
parents and other individuals where it belongs," she said. "Individuals
already have the technical means to make their own choices about what they
and their children read and see," Dyson said.

Godwin noted that existing anti-obscenity laws, together with low-cost
technological solutions, offer a more efficient, less intrusive answer to
questions about protecting children in the online world.

"The government kept saying that this was a crisis that required harsher
censorship in the online world than in any other communications medium,"
Godwin said. "In fact, we showed that it's possible to promote both freedom
of speech and family values -- that the two goals don't oppose each other."

While the plaintiffs  are pleased with the victory, Fena said, "it's no time
to be complacent." A collection of poorly drafted state laws has followed in
the wake of the passage of the CDA, and the issues these statutes raise must
be addressed as well, she said. 

"What's as compelling as the language of this decision," Godwin said, "is the
breadth of the opposition to this legislation," He noted that two large
groups of plaintiffs, including EFF, the American Civil Liberties Union, the
Electronic Privacy Information Center, People for the American Way, the
American Library Association, Microsoft, and Apple Computer, had challenged
the recently passed law in Philadelphia's federal court. Even Administration
officials have privately and publicly voiced their concerns. The plaintiffs
must now prepare for the government's planned appeal to the United States
Supreme Court, Godwin said, citing a provision of the Telecommunications
Reform Act of 1996, which prescribes such a direct appeal when a provision of
the telecom act is found unconstitutional in a lower court..

Godwin also commented that "this may be the most rapidly distributed federal
court opinion in American history." Sites all over the over the Net would be
carrying the full text of the opinion almost as soon as the judges hand it
down, he said, noting that the court is providing copies of the opinion on
computer diskettes as well as through more traditional means.

The constitutional challenge to the Communications Decency Act has been
grounded in four basic arguments -- that the law is unconstitutionally
overbroad (criminalizing protected speech), that it is unconstitutionally
vague (making it difficult for individuals and organizations to comply),
that it fails what the judiciary calls the "least restrictive means" test for
speech regulation, and that there is no basic constitutional authority under
the First Amendment to engage in this type of content regulation in any
nonbroadcast medium.

"We are confident the Supreme Court will uphold the Philadelphia court's
decision," Godwin said.