Free-speech advocates scored a victory in Ohio August 2 when a judge issued a temporary injunction against a law that would prevent material "harmful to juveniles" from being made available on the Internet. Without the injunction, the law would have gone into effect August 5.
Judge Walter Rice concluded that the plaintiffs had made a strong enough case that the statute was overbroad, and granted the temporary injunction. In the next 10 days, the judge will write a fuller decision that will extend the injunction until the litigation is resolved. As a result of the statute's overbreadth, Judge Rice did not even address whether its extension to the Internet from print materials was constitutional, another issue raised by the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs include a coalition of literary sites as well as other parties, including Wilkie's Bookstore in Dayton, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the Association of American Publishers, who argued that the law would restrict them from distributing many types of lawful material on the Web (News, May 20). The ball is now in the state's court—it could move ahead with a trial, file an appeal or call off litigation and ask the legislature to write a new law. Similar laws have already been overturned in six states, including New York.
Plaintiff lawyer Michael Bamberger said he was "gratified" with the decision and said he remains baffled by the government's need to expand its current law, especially given the poor track record of such extensions. The attorney general argued that the law is neither aimed at the plaintiffs nor would it harm them.