Federal Laws

Internet law in the United States is protected by federal laws.  Federal law protects web servers.  Though there are no federal laws regulating unsolicited commercial email, some case laws have ruled that companies have no First Amendment right to send unsolicited messages to online service subscribers. 

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) was the first notable attempt by the United States Congress to regulate pornographic material on the Internet.  The CDA was enacted in February 1996.  In the same month, a US Court issued a restraining order preventing its enforcement.  In June 1996, a panel of federal judges in Philadelphia ruled the CDA unconstitutional.  However, in June 1997, the US Supreme Court struck down the CDA on grounds that it violated the First Amendment.

The Child Online Protection Act (COPA) was another Act passed in 1998 with the declared purpose of restricting access by minors to any material defined as harmful to such minors on the Internet.  COPA is the sequel to the CDA and aimed to avoid the constitutional defects of the CDA.  COPA covers communications that are made for commercial purposes on the World Wide Web. It requires commercial Web publishers to ensure that minors do not access “material harmful to minors” on their Web site.  However, the United States federal courts have ruled that the law violates the constitutional protection of free speech, and therefore have blocked it from taking effect.  Therefore as of today, the law remains unconstitutional and unenforced.


Inside Federal Laws