Archived Press Release
Originally posted March 26, 2002
The American Library Association (ALA) opened its challenge to the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) yesterday in the District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Starting at 9:15 a.m. EST was Candace Morgan, former president of the Freedom to Read Foundation, the legal defense arm of the ALA. Morgan testified to her library's Internet-use policies and the mission of the public library to provide patrons with access to the information they want and need.
"Candy clearly brought home the point that libraries have not been waiting for the federal government to come up with a solution to concerns about inappropriate content on the Internet," said Judith Krug, director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom. "Since the library introduced computers and public Internet access in 1995, policies and procedures have been created, then re-evaluated as Internet use changed and grew."
Morgan testified that her library, the Ft. Vancouver (Wash.) Regional Library, currently offers users three options: unfiltered access, filtered access and no access. Parents may make these access decisions for their minor children. Approximately 80 percent of library users select unfiltered access, according to Morgan, compared to 19.9 percent for filtered and .1 percent for no Internet access. Complaints about Internet content made up less than 1 percent of all comments/complaints to the library. Under CIPA, blocking technology would be mandatory for all library computers connected to the Internet and all users, including children, adults and staff.
"Libraries are local institutions - our policies are created locally, and more than 80 percent of funding is local," Krug added. "It doesn't make sense for libraries or their users to be forced to pay for commercial blocking technology - particularly when we know that it restricts legal and useful information and allows objectionable material through in significant amounts."
Other librarians testifying in court Monday were Ginnie Cooper, library director for the Multnomah County (Ore.) Public Library; Sally Reed former ALA Executive Board member and director of the Norfolk (Vir.) Public Library, now head of the Friends of the Library USA; and Peter Hamon, director of the South Central Library System in Madison, Wis. The Court also started to hear testimony from Dr. Geoffrey Nunberg of Stanford University, an expert on the Internet and Internet technologies. In the audience were ALA President John W. Berry and Immediate Past President Nancy Kranich.
"I feel we had a very strong beginning to this nine-day trial," Berry said. "All of the librarians spoke loudly and clearly about the incredible use of library resources for education, recreation and entertainment - online and in print. We heard that even a well-wired community like Portland has only about half of households with home computers. Libraries help bridge this digital divide - particularly in poor and rural communities."
CIPA and the Neighborhood Children's Internet Protection Act (NCIPA) were signed into law December 21, 2000. CIPA mandates the use of blocking technology for public libraries that seek Universal Service discounts (E-rate) for Internet access, Internet service or internal connections or that seek Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds to purchase computers for Internet access or to pay for Internet access. The ALA and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed lawsuits challenging the law in March 2001. The cases were combined and are being heard by a three-judge panel made up of two district and one appellate court judge. People for the American Way is serving as supporting counsel for the ALA challenge. The ALA v. United States case argues:
- CIPA abolishes a community's control of its library policies.
- Filters simply do not work, and CIPA does not protect children
- CIPA violates the Constitution because it makes access to funding and discounts for Internet use in public libraries contingent on accepting content and viewpoint restrictions on constitutionally protected speech.
- Poor communities and people with disabilities will be affected disproportionately if libraries are forced to choose between federal technology funding and censorship.
Over the past four years, more than $255.5 million has been disbursed to more than 5,000 public libraries through the federal E-rate program, which provides discounts on telecommunications and Internet-related technologies. The Library Services and Technology Act has distributed more than $883 million to libraries nationwide since 1998.
For more information and updates on CIPA and the ALA's challenge, please go to the CIPA Web site.