COPA: A Quiet Death
© 2009 Teresa Cook
No one brought flowers, and few papers printed its obituary; the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) died a quiet
death on January 21, 2009. In fact, the ten-year-old legislation never really had a chance to live.
Designed to protect children from Internet pornography by requiring commercial online pornography distributors
to verify the age of their consumers, COPA was born a year after the Supreme Court killed a similar law, the
Communications Decency Act. However, courts blocked COPA at every turn until the Supreme Court finally refused
to hear any more cases, effectively laying it to rest.1
COPA had its flaws—it failed to address other threats such as online predators; it would be ineffective
against many pornographic web sites based in other countries—but these weaknesses did not cause its demise.
Instead, the American Civil Liberties Union’s old mantra of "free speech" drowned out any chance of the law’s
In the battle for COPA, judges claimed blocking filters worked better than legislation, ignoring the fact that
less than half of parents use filtering software.3 And since filters at home
won’t protect children at libraries, friends’ houses, or Internet cafйs, the judges also overlooked COPA’s
potential for adding another layer of protection outside the home.
The Supreme Court’s execution of COPA confirms that they believe giving pornographers carte blanche to profit
from obscenity (cloaked as a First Amendment "right") is more important than our children’s safety. Patrick
Trueman, who headed the Justice Department’s anti-obscenity unit from 1988 to 1993, expressed doubt that
Congress would ever again try to enact legislation to protect children from pornography.4
Of course, many other countries have faced the same attitudes and lack of support from their
governments for years.
So it’s up to us.
In addition to implementing the protection procedures outlined on this web site (See Articles:
"Plug the Holes: Internet"
and others), we can become active in the fight against
- Contact congressmen about applicable legislation. We can’t give up because one law bit the dust.
In July 2007, senators introduced
S1780, the Protecting Children from Indecent Programming Act,
to "require the FCC, in enforcing its regulations concerning the broadcast of indecent programming, to
maintain a policy that a single word or image may be considered indecent." It still hasn’t been acted upon.
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- Complain to the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about indecent programming.
- Join family organizations to unite with other parents to fight for our children. Associations such
as Focus on the Family, American Family Association (AFA), AFA’s
Parents Television Council provide opportunities for parents to impact programmers, advertisers, and others.
- Vote for anti-porn officials, especially judges.
- Complain. Ask stores to remove objectionable material. Petition video stores to stop selling
"backroom" videos. Call radio and television stations and complain about indecent programming. Contact advertisers and encourage them to drop sponsorship of vulgar shows.
Effective social action often takes place on a personal, one-on-one level. We may do the most
good by holding our officials and businesses accountable community by community.
It’s up to us, not the government, to protect our children. Let’s not let our children’s innocence meet
the same untimely death as COPA.