Judge Rejects Web Porn Law

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PHILADELPHIA: The irrepressible Internet has busted yet another brown wrapper. U.S. District Court Judge Lowell A. Reed Jr. ruled Monday that the Child Online Protection Act -- the Clinton administration's Net censorship Plan B after the Communications Decency Act was struck down -- was no less unconstitutional than its predecessor. Reed had some "personal regret" that his decision "will delay once again the careful protection of our children." But, he added, "perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if the First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection."

It was a job Reed had already done once, soon after Clinton signed the law in October -- Monday's ruling merely extended its stay in non-enforcement limbo. Coming to the rescue of free speech once again was a strange-bedfellows coalition of online smut peddlers and decidedly more PC sex purveyors such as the Sexual Health Network, a web site with information about sexuality for the disabled. The porn sites -- and where would the Net be without free porn? -- argued that the labyrinth of age checks and registration pages that Congress and Clinton had in mind would spook their, well, more discreet customers. The administration may appeal -- after all, we can't have our kids reading that nasty Starr report.