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Ashcroft v. The Free Speech Coalition

Law Dictionary
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Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Constitutional Law Keyed to Cohen

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 535 U.S. 234 (2002)

Brief Fact Summary. The Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) defined prohibited child pornography to include explicit sexual images which were meant to represent minors but did not use any real children as subjects, being produced by other means such as computer imaging. The Free Speech Coalition (P) argued that this federal law violated the First Amendment.


Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) of 1996 prevents speech which is not obscene or child pornography, and so impinges on the freedom of speech and violates the constitution.


Facts. The Congress enacted the CPPA in 1996 to prohibit the use of images which appear to show minors engaged in sexual acts but which were, however, produced without the use of real children. The possession or distribution of images so produced, whether by virtual technology methods or by using adults who look childish or are made to look so, was prohibited in specific conditions by this Act. This was challenged by the Free Speech Coalition (P), which is a trade union for the adult-entertainment industry, and other parties. They challenged the Act in federal district court on the grounds that the terms “appear to be”ť and “conveys the impression that”ť as used in the impugned statute are too vague and broad to prevent the Act from being improperlyused to prevent them from producing works under their constitutional rights guaranteed in the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment for the Government (D). The decision was reversed by the federal court of appeals, and the Government (D) appealed.


Issue. Does the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) of 1996 cut down freedom of speech, by preventing speech which is neither obscene nor child pornography, and does it so violate the constitution?


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