Congress Vs The Public Library Essay

Total Length: 703 words ( 2 double-spaced pages)

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United States v. American Library Association, 539 U.S. 194 (2003) saw the U.S. Supreme Court rule that libraries as well as public schools are subject to the authority of U.S. Congress concerning installation of web filtering software as a result of receiving E-Rate discounts. These discounts are part of federal funding. Any public school or library receiving such funds must install this type of software. The ruling demonstrated installation of such filtering software is not unconstitutional as it does not violate the First Amendment. This ruling provided the groundwork for the Children's Internet Protection Act to take full effect.

In 2000, Congress passed the CIPA or the Children's Internet Protect Act. This law served as the main issue for the 2003 case. In order for public libraries to qualify for and receive federal aid for internet access, they must install web filtering software. The software disabled access to pornographic/obscene images including other material deemed potentially dangerous for minors. The law was not met with acceptance. The American Library Association along with library patrons sought to challenge the law and claimed it restricted library patrons First Amendment rights (Caristi & Davie, 2015). Library patrons felt the restriction was not something they felt they could accept so readily.

The petitioner or opposing side had Solicitor General Olson argue for appellants. Others with him were Irving L. Gornstein, Jacob M. Lewis among others. Greg Abbot and several others filed on behalf of the state of Texas briefs of amici curiae to urge reversal (Middleton, Lee, & Stewart, 2016). Among their defense was the notion that CIPA does not violate the First Amendment. Furthermore, because the public libraries receive funds directly from the federal government, they must comply with any changes in policies or rules that are part of the program or service funded. Public funds henceforth, must be spent on the purpose from which they were authorized.

The respondent had Paul M. Smith argue on their behalf. Their side of the argument suggested the internet filter software created an unnecessary restriction and violation of their First Amendment rights. They argued the library patrons did not feel it necessary and saw the law as an abrupt change that had an impact on how they used the internet. The limitation seemed to them a step towards future restrictions that may cause additional problems in the future.….....

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Caristi, D. & Davie, W. (2015). Communication law. Routledge.

Mcleod, S. (2016). United States v. American Library Association - law case. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 15 August 2016, from

Mears, B. (2016). - Supreme Court affirms use of computer filters in public libraries - Jan. 13, 2004. Retrieved 15 August 2016, from

Middleton, K., Lee, W., & Stewart, D. (2016). The Law of Public Communication. London: Taylor and Francis.

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