is this the CIPA lawsuit we have been waiting for?

Seth links to an ACLU-WA press release which states that they are helping three patrons and a non-profit bring a lawsuit against the North Central Regional Library System in Eastern Washington for not allowing adult patrons to disable the SmartFilter filtering software that the library places on its public access computers. No statement from the library in the ACLU press release, or on their own website at this point. I hope they can resolve this in some amicable way that involves a whole new tough look at CIPA and the overfiltering that often happens in the name of compliance. From the press release:

Bess blocks a very broad array of lawful information, and the NCRL has refused to unblock sites for patrons.

The lawsuit contends that the library system’s policy of refusing to disable its Internet filters at the request of adults who wish to conduct bona fide research or to access the Web for other lawful purposes violates the United States and Washington State constitutions. The suit seeks an order directing the NCRL to provide unblocked access to the Internet when adults request it.

As you may recall, CIPA mandates that libraries who get E-rate money “have the ability to block minors from seeing “visual depictions” of sexual activity” which usually involves installing filters.

However, the Supreme Court decision also made it clear that if these filters wound up blocking constitutionally protected speech from adults, there might be trouble. That is to say, the law was judged to be constitutional on its face, but it was undetermined whether the law was also constitutional as it is applied. This lawsuit may help untangle some of that

In the meantime, according to the Public Libraries and the Internet report issued by the Information Use Management and Policy Institute at the College of Information, Florida State University (at around p. 100 but read the whole thing) “15.3% (+/- 3.6%) of libraries [surveyed] said [t]he library has applied for E-rate in the past, but because of the need to comply with CIPA, our library decided not to apply in 2006.” This is a damned shame. The Institute surveyed almost 5,000 libraries, a pretty large group of libraries. To hear that over 700 libraries decided to forego E-rate money to avoid the burden of filtering… well what does that tell you?

2 Responses to “is this the CIPA lawsuit we have been waiting for?”

  1. caleb Says:

    I don’t know if this has made the library rounds yet, but the here is a link to one of the complaintant’s MySpace, where he discusses some articles related to the case.

    http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=18826013

    Libraries are going to come out of this muddied no matter what the outcome.

  2. Dan Riordan Says:

    I think the FSU study misses another effect of CIPA on E-Rate funding: there are many libraries taking E-Rate funding for telecommunications, which does not require CIPA compliance, but not taking funding for Internet access or internal connections, which does require CIPA compliance.

    There are many other libraries which never applied for E-Rate funding, and the spectre of CIPA keeps them from starting.

    In other words, in addition to the 15% of libraries which no longer receive any funding, there are many more that are underfunded, and still more who have not ever applied and never will as long as CIPA requires them to filter.