The Child Online Protection Act
In the closing days of the 1998 Congressional session, the Child Online Protection Act was approved as part of a large spending bill. The Act establishes a national "harmful to minors" standard for online communications. This is Congress’ attempt to pass a bill following the Supreme Court’s action last year striking down the Communications Decency Act. Despite the efforts of a huge array of First Amendment advocates, copyright owners and online companies, this measure was included in the spending bill.
Specifically, the legislation requires commercial entities that knowingly make available communications that are "harmful to minors" to place such information behind an age verification shield for children 17 years of age or under. Failure to comply can bring both criminal and civil penalties. A suit was brought against the bill by various parties, and the court has issued a temporary stay on implementing the legislation. Further court battles are expected. Also included in the final spending bill are provisions added by Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) that were originally attached to the Internet Tax Freedom Act. These provisions would lift the tax moratorium on entities found guilty under H.R. 3783.