Heeding calls from publishers, booksellers and free speech activists to reject a "misguided" amendment sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde on violence in the media, 92 Republicans joined 189 of their Democratic colleagues to defeat the controversial amendment 282 to 146.

The Association of American Publishers, the American Booksellers Association and the ABA's Foundation for Free Expression had lobbied aggressively against the Hyde amendment, also known as the Children's Defense Act. The legislation would make it a federal felony, punishable by five years in jail, to sell, show or lend a range of constitutionally protected materials to anyone under 17.

The legislation would have affected a wide range of materials, from books and magazines to video games and movies. Despite efforts by conservative Republicans to focus on the entertainment industry, some, like Mark Foley (R.-Fla.), were far more concerned about allowing the government to determine "what is decent."

Pat Shr der, president and CEO of the AAP, told PW, "we're obviously pleased that good sense prevailed." She praised representatives for "resisting the temptation to seek easy answers to juvenile violence by attacking the first amendment."

Chris Finan, director of ABFFE, told PW, "We're very pleased at the support from both sides of the aisle to defeat this bill. But there are still a lot of bad proposals floating around Congress." Finan pointed to a number of "third-party liability bills" that would make booksellers and publishers liable for crimes committed by readers and viewers. He noted Senate bill S.254, which would make it a crime to distribute any information about explosives ("it could apply to The Anarchists Cookbook," said Finan) and a proposal to exempt media conglomerates from antitrust statutes in exchange for self-censorship of their content. "Defeating the Hyde amendment was significant," said Finan, "but we're not out of the woods yet."