Date: Sun, 23 Feb 1997 17:48:15 -0500 (EST)
Subject: SLAC: "Metaphor" Brief to the Supreme Court

           The SLAC Bulletin    /    2-23-97
 From the authors of Sex, Laws and Cyberspace 

                      WITH SUPREME COURT

	Jon Lebkowsky, an Austin-based Internet activist
and author, and SiteSpecific Inc., a New York City new media
company, have filed a friend of the court brief with the United 
States Supreme Court, supporting the findings of the District Court 
in Reno v. ACLU, the Communications Decency Act (CDA) case. 
"We believe the lower court was completely correct in finding that 
the CDA was unconstitutional," Lebkowsky said.

	 In their brief, filed by attorney Jamie Stecher of 
New York City, the parties argue that the Supreme Court should 
recognize that emerging electronic media, such as the Internet, require 
and deserve the same kind of First Amendment protection from 
government censorship that is traditionally accorded to newspapers,
magazines and books.  The brief argues that the Court has erred in 
recent years by failing to recognize that, for constitutional purposes, 
the Internet is a metaphorical printing press.  

"When confronted with new technology, courts proceeded most wisely  
when they apply a settled body of case law that was developed for 
an analogous technology," Stecher commented.  "For example, in the 
last century, when courts in the United States and England were 
confronted with lawsuits concerning a new medium called the  
telephone, they ruled that the telephone was like an existing medium -- 
the telegraph -- and by using this analogy adapted decisions made in 
cases involving the telegraph to the new medium.  Not only did the 
analogy provide a firm basis for deciding the first telephone cases, 
but it provided an important sense of predictability to the new 
medium.  Last June,  however, a four-Justice plurality of the Supreme 
Court  went seriously astray when it decided an important case 
pertaining to free speech on cable television,  Denver Area Educational 
Communications Coalition v. FCC,  without specifying whether cable 
should be treated for constitutional purposes like broadcast media, 
or print media, or something else. It is hard to see how a court can 
correctly determine  *how* to regulate something without first deciding 
*what* it is."  

	Jonathan Wallace, co-author with Mark Mangan of
Sex, Laws and Cyberspace (Henry Holt, 1996) and a plaintiff in 
Reno v. ACLU, welcomed the filing of the brief.

	"In the book, we say that 'Cyberspace is a constellation
of printing presses and bookstores," Wallace noted. "This brief helps to 
address a gap in the government's logic. Would you really treat Catcher 
in the Rye differently between paper covers and in electronic format? 
That's what one Congressman suggested, the day the CDA passed.
Finding  that the Internet is a form of print media will forestall that 
possibility. If a particular law would, like the CDA, be unconstitutional 
if applied to books and magazines, it shouldn't be constitutional for the 
Net either."

	The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Reno v. ACLU
on March 19th.

	The amicus brief will be available on Friday Feb. 21 at