Libraries and the Internet Toolkit
Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA)
Congress added the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Neighborhood Children's Internet Protection Act (NCIPA) to a major spending bill (H.R. 4577) on December 15, 2000. President Clinton signed the bill into law on December 21, 2000 (Public Law 106-554). The Acts place restrictions on the use of funding that is available through the Library Services and Technology Act, Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and on the Universal Service discount program known as the E-rate. These restrictions take the form of requirements for Internet safety policies and technology which blocks or filters certain material from being accessed through the Internet.
ALA filed a lawsuit to overturn CIPA, because the law fails to protect children while limiting access to legal, useful information for all library users.
On May 31, 2002, a three-judge panel of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania unanimously held that "we are constrained to conclude that the library plaintiffs must prevail in their contention that CIPA requires them to violate the First Amendment rights of their patrons, and accordingly is facially invalid"; the three-judge panel ruled Sections 1712(a)(2) and 1721(b) of the Children's Internet Protection Act to be facially invalid under the First Amendment and permanently enjoined the government from enforcing those provisions.
The government appealed this decision, and on June 23, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower court decision (United States v. American Library Ass'n. Inc.). The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment does not prohibit Congress from forcing public libraries—as a condition of receiving federal funding—to use software filters to control what patrons and staff access online via library computers.
For information on the Neighborhood Children's Internet Protection Act (NCIPA), see NCIPA.