CIPA Court Decisions

Supreme Court Reverses U.S. District Court's Permanent Injunction [PDF] United States et al. v. American Library Association, Inc., et al.

On June 23, 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court resuscitated the CIPA Internet filtering requirement for public libraries. One year ago, on May 31st, 2002 the the U.S District Court for the eastern district of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia had permanently enjoined the U.S. Government from enforcing the Internet filtering requirements of the Children's Internet Protection Act as they apply to public libraries. The District Court injunction was reversed by the U.S Supreme Court yesterday in a mixed decision (docket no. 02-361). Chief Justice Rehnquist, and Justices O'Connor, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Breyer concurred, though Justices Kennedy and Breyer filed separate opinions. Justices Stevens, Souter each filed a separate dissenting opinion, and Justice Ginsburg concurred with Justice Souter's dissent.

The decision appears to roll back the requirements on libraries accepting federal funds governed by CIPA requirements (see below) to where they were before being struck down by the District Court, with possibly one significant exception. Under the original rules "An administrator, supervisor, or other authority may disable a technology protection measure ...to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes." [CIPA Section.1712(3) and 1721(6)(D)]. Both Justices Kennedy and Breyer, who concurred in the reveral, emphasized in their opinions that a librarian should upon the request of an adult, remove blocking on specific sites, or entirely disabled filtering for that user. The notion that a librarian needs to establish the bona fides or legitimacy of the request before disabling filtering is diminished or removed.

The following libraries and library programs are affected.

  • E-Rate - Public libraries that have applied either directly or through an automated network (e.g., Minuteman, CLAMS) for Internet access and internal wiring projects.

    On July 24, the FCC issued an order (also available as a pdf or MS Word document) describing the process and timeline by which a library or network will come into compliance with CIPA. Libraries wishing to come into compliance, have FY2003 to "undertake actions";, but must be in compliance by July 1, 2004. The American Library Association has provided a summary of the essential elements.

  • LSTA - Public libraries that have applied for LSTA grants to be awarded by the Board of Library Commissioners in July and scheduled to begin this October, when the project includes purchase of computers used to access the Internet.

    The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which administers the federal LSTA program, has provided guidance and a timeline to state library Agencies, including the MBLC.

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Page last updated on 09/7/2007