Tuesday, December 20, 2005
FIRST AMENDMENT: 1995 Newshare CDA challenge on pipes vs. content
Newshare Corp./American Reporter censorship statement
Onliners pose triple-barreled challenge to proposed muzzle bill;
Urge congressional reversal, presidential veto and Internet challenge
LOS ANGELES, Calif., Dec. 8, 1995 -- The editor of the nation's first
all-digital daily newspaper threatened on Thursday to deliberately defy
the language of a U.S. House cyberporn proposal if it becomes law, calling
the measure a clear violation of the First Amendment.
And the president of the company which links that digital daily to the
Internet said the measure, if enacted by Congress and signed by President
Clinton, would threaten the future of the Internet as the emerging global
"The survival of free speech on the Internet is more important than even
the survival of this newspaper, and we will risk its very existence to
fight for a principle in which we fully believe," said Joe Shea,
Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter, a 10-month-old daily which is
published only on the Internet and its World Wide Web.
The paper will publish an "indecent" article to be written by Texas
criminal court judge Stephen Russell in order to violate the proposed law,
and then go into court to defend its right to do so under the First
Amendment, Shea said.
Newshare Corp., which has hosted The American Reporter at its web site
since shortly after the daily's inception on April 10, said as the
cyberpaper's common carrier, it would not block Shea's efforts but would
not endorse them either.
"We are akin to a printing press," said Bill Densmore, president of
Newshare, the Internet's first Internet news brokerage. "If we can be held
liable for the publication of protected speech, then how long will it be
before AT&T, Sprint and MCI are paying fines for what people say on the
phone? And how can newspapers deliver their content on the Internet free
Both Shea and Densmore urged a reversal vote in the joint House-Senate
conference or during expected subsequent votes in the House and Senate.
Densmore and Shea said they would communicate their position to the
Majority and Minority Leaders of both houses.
Failing that, Densmore and Shea urged the president to veto the entire
"The effects of this bill would be sufficiently destructive to merit
sending lawmakers back until they come up with a solution that doesn't
kill the Internet for publishers by making it the most heavily regulated
medium in the United States," Shea and Densmore said in a joint statement.
"The best Internet censor is a loving and attentive parent."
In the event the bill is enacted, the American Reporter's Joe Shea
pledged, "I will post material that courts have considered "indecent."
Last summer, at the time of the passage of the Exon Amendment in the
Senate Joe Shea promised to challenge the law if enacted, and received
Since that time, Judge Stephen Russell of Texas agreed to write the
"indecent" article Shea had vowed to publish if the bill becomes law, and
Randall Boe, an attorney with the large Washington, D.C. law firm Arent
Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn, a distinguished First Amendment proponent
that litigated the "Seven Dirty Words" case, agreed to represent The
American Reporter in an action that would be pursued all the way to the
U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, to overturn it. Now, Shea has dusted off
the plan to attack the current proposed wording of the law. For Shea's
editorial on the subject, see
To enable a joint initial challenge to the law, Shea has already contacted
other editors and publishers, and he volunteered the American Reporter's
Web site as a place to announce links to other sites that publicly repost
his or similar material. (This site is hosted by Newshare, which, said
Densmore, "will act as The American Reporter's First Amendment printing
press.") In doing so under the new law, the publishers could be subject to
$100,000 fines and two-year prison sentences.
Newshare published in June a policy on parental control over online
materials (found at http://www.newshare.com/News/parent.html in which it
declared that publishers should ask users whether they wish objectionable
material blocked, and content providers the should decide what to flag as
"A publisher who fails to label such material should be punished by the
public through the marketplace, not by Big Brother in Washington," said
Densmore. "The Internet is not a form of broadcasting, where the
government may justify censorship, as it does on the airwaves, in the name
of protecting the public. Congress' deliberations reflect a fundamental
misunderstanding of the future of the Internet as a source of personalized
information and commerce."
In condemning the House Conference Committee's narrow vote to censor
constitutionally protected speech online, Densmore and Shea noted the
last-minute substitution of the vague and overly broad "indecency"
criterion supported by the Christian Coalition instead of the original
"harmful to minors" standard contained in the previous proposal.
Densmore's letter to Rep. Rick White on the impact of the law on
publishing businesses online can be found at
Williamstown, Massachusetts-based Newshare Corporation, Internet's first
news brokerage, enables the by-subscription and charge-per-page delivery
(via billable hypertext links) of news and time-sensitive information by
publishers, broadcasters and entrepreneurs to users of the World Wide Web.
In the coming months, Newshare will release the Clickshare(sm) System that
tracks movements and settles charges for digital transactions -- down to
as little as 10 cents per query -- as users jump among multiple unrelated
Web sites. For more, go to http://www.newshare.com/ or
Los Angeles, California-based The American Reporter is a five-day-per week
electronic "newshare" owned by the writers whose work it features. It was
founded to give journalists around the world an opportunity to have a
financial stake in their own work. Each story carried by The American
Reporter earns equity for the correspondent in future profits from
advertising and subscriptions, and revenue when their stories sell to
other newspapers. For more go to http://www.newshare.com/Reporter/.
For the latest on the bill, send email to or go to one of these web sites:
Center for Democracy and Technology (public interest group)
Voters Telecommunications Watch (public interest group)
Alliance for Competitive Telecommunications (regional phone companies'
Joe Shea, The American Reporter, firstname.lastname@example.org
Felix Kramer, Newshare Corp., email@example.com, 212/866-4864
Bill Densmore, Newshare Corp., firstname.lastname@example.org, 413/458-8001
Go to the Newshare Censorship Site
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Copyright 1995 Newshare Corp. All rights reserved.
Last modified 03-10-96 mjc