American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression et al v. Sullivan
DECLARATION of David Horowitz re 87 MOTION for Attorney Fees Plaintiffs' Application for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses by Alaska Library Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, Association of American Publishers, Inc., Book Blizzard LLC, Bosco's, Inc., Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, David & Melissa LLC, Donald R. Douglas, Entertainment Merchants Association, Freedom to Read Foundation. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B, # 3 Exhibit C, # 4 Exhibit D, # 5 Exhibit E, # 6 Exhibit F, # 7 Exhibit G, # 8 Exhibit H, # 9 Exhibit I, # 10 Exhibit J, # 11 Exhibit K)(Bamberger, Michael)
275 SEVENTH AVENUE • 15TH FLOOR • NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10001
PHONE: 212-587-4025 • FAX: 212-587-2436 • WWW.MEDIACOALITION.ORG
Foundation for Free
Association of American
Comic Book Legal
Freedom to Read
Magazine Publishers of
Association of America,
National Association of
Association of America,
Foundation for Free
Immediate Past Chair
Sean Devlin Bersell
Michael A. Bamberger
Sonnenschein Nath &
Memorandum in Opposition to Alaska House Bill 298
The members of Media Coalition believe that both House Bill 298 and
existing Alaska statute 11.61.128(a) violates the First Amendment rights of
producers and retailers and their customers. The trade associations and other
organizations who comprise Media Coalition have many members throughout the
country including Alaska: book and magazine publishers, booksellers and
librarians as well as manufacturers and retailers of recordings, films, videos and
video games and their consumers.
AS 11.61.128(a) bars the distribution by a computer of any “indecent
material” by an adult to anyone under 16 years old or someone the adult believes is
under 16 years old. “Indecent material” is defined to include any depiction of
actual or simulated sexual penetration, lewd touching or exhibition of the genitals,
anus, or female breast, masturbation, sexual masochism or sadism. H.B. 298
would expand the existing law would broaden it to apply to any type of
distribution rather than merely by computer.
Speech is protected unless the Supreme Court tells us otherwise. As the
Court said in Free Speech Coalition v. Ashcroft, “As a general principle, the First
Amendment bars the government from dictating what we see or read or speak or
hear. The freedom of speech has its limits; it does not embrace certain categories
of speech, including defamation, incitement, obscenity and pornography produced
with children.” 535 U.S.234, 241 (2002). Unless speech falls into one of these
limited categories or is otherwise tied to an illegal act such as luring or enticing a
minor, there is no basis for the government to bar access to make such material
The restriction on “indecent materials” in the present law and in this bill,
without a connection to an otherwise illegal act such as luring or enticing a minor,
is almost certainly unconstitutionally overbroad. While minors do not enjoy the
protection of the First Amendment to the same extent as adults, the U.S. Supreme
Court has ruled that “minors are entitled to a significant measure of First
Amendment protection, and only in relatively narrow and well-defined
circumstances may government bar public dissemination of protected material to
them.” Erznoznick v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 212-13 (1975). Governments
may restrict minors’ access to some sexually explicit speech but it is a narrow
range of material determined by a specific test. Merely containing sexual content
is not enough to make a book, movie, magazine or sound recording illegal. In the
case of Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. 629 (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court
established a three-part test for determining whether material is "harmful to
The Media Coalition is a trade association that defends the First Amendment rights of
Declaration of David Horowitz, Exhibit A, Page 1 of 2
publishers, booksellers, librarians, recording, motion picture and video games producers,
and recording, video, and video game retailers and consumers in the United States.
minors" and may therefore be banned for sale to minors. The material deemed illegal for minors
by AS 11.61.128(a) and H.B. 298 does not include any of the three prong test from Ginsberg and
would criminalize a far broader range of material than is allowed under the First Amendment. A
recent law enacted in Illinois barred the sale of video games with sexual content but without the
third prong of the Ginsberg test. The law was permanently enjoined by the U.S. District Court
and the ruling was heartily affirmed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. ESA v.
Blagojevich, 469 F.3d 642 (7th Cir. 2006) aff’g 404 F. Supp. 2d 1051 (N.D. Ill. 2005).
The existing law’s application of these restrictions to Internet communication is almost
certainly unconstitutional even if it was limited to material that could be restricted as “harmful to
minors” under the three-prong test in Ginsberg. This treats material on the Internet as if there
were no difference between a computer transmission and a book or magazine. But cyberspace is
not like a bookstore. There is no way to know whether the person receiving the “harmful”
material is a minor or an adult. As a result, the effect of banning the computer dissemination of
material “harmful to minors” is to force a provider, whether a publisher or an on-line carrier, to
deny access to both minors and adults, depriving adults of their First Amendment rights. The
U.S. Supreme Court has already declared unconstitutional two federal laws that restrict the
availability of matter inappropriate for minors on the Internet. Reno v. ACLU, 117 S.Ct. 2329
(1997); Ashcroft v. ACLU, 534 F.2d 181 (3d Cir 2008), cert. den. 129 Sup. Ct. 1032 (2009).
Similar state laws banning sexual speech for minors on the Internet have been ruled
unconstitutional. See, PSINet v. Chapman, 63 F.3d 227 (4th Cir. 2004); ABFFE v. Dean, 342
F.3d 96 (2nd Cir 2003); Cyberspace Communications, Inc. v. Engler, 238 F.3d 420 (6th Cir.
2000); ACLU v. Johnson, 194 F.3d 1149 (10th Cir. 1999); Southeast Booksellers v. McMasters
282 F. Supp 2d 1180 (D.S.C. 2003); American Libraries Ass’n v. Pataki 969 F. Supp. 160 (S.D.
1997); ACLU v. Goddard, Civ No. 00-0505 TUC AM (D. Ariz. 2002). The only exceptions to
these decisions have been laws that were limited to speech illegal for minors that were intended
to be communicated to a person the speaker has specific, rather than general, knowledge is a
minor. However, such laws might still be unconstitutional as a violation of the Commerce
Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In addition to First Amendment deficiencies, the courts have
also ruled that these state laws violate the Commerce Clause, which reserves to Congress the
regulation of interstate commerce and prevents a state from imposing laws extraterritorially.
Passage of this bill could prove costly. If a court declares it unconstitutional, there is a
good possibility that the state will be ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys' fees. In the
successful challenge to the Illinois legislation, the state agreed to pay to the plaintiffs more than
If you would like to discuss further our position on this bill, please contact David
Horowitz at 212-587-4025 #11 or at email@example.com.
Again, we ask you to please protect the First Amendment rights of all the people of
Alaska and reconsider the existing law and this legislation.
Declaration of David Horowitz, Exhibit A, Page 2 of 2
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