Amid the pomp, circumstance and general hubbub surrounding the inauguration of U.S. President Barach Obama last week, the U.S Supreme Court quietly administered a coup de grace to the controversial Child Online Protection Act (COPA). The court, which ruled COPA unconstitutional in 2004, refused a U.S. Justice Department request to hear further arguments in the case. Legal experts say that’s the end, finally, of the government’s decade-long effort to have COPA enforced.

The law, enacted in the late 1990s amid a flurry of Internet pornography scares, established penalties including jail terms of up to six months and fines of up to (US)$50,000 for any Web site operator who posted “material harmful to minors”.

Predictably, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took the law to court, saying it was too broad and vague, and patently unconstitutional.

Following the Supreme Court decision last Wednesday, ACLU lawyer Chris Hansen issued a statement affirming the group’s positon that, “It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet. Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families.”

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