OCTOBER TERM, 2003

Syllabus

ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL v. AMERICAN
CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE THIRD CIRCUIT
No. 03-218.

Argued March 2, 2004-Decided June 29, 2004

To protect minors from exposure to sexually explicit materials on the Internet, Congress enacted the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), 47
U. S. C. §231, which, among other things, imposes a $50,000 fine and six
months in prison for the knowing posting, for "commercial purposes,"
§231(a)(1), of World Wide Web content that is "harmful to minors," but
provides an affirmative defense to commercial Web speakers who restrict access to prohibited materials by "requiring use of a credit card"
or "any other reasonable measures that are feasible under available
technology," §231(c)(1). COPA was enacted in response to Reno v.
American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U. S. 844, in which this Court held
that the Communications Decency Act of 1996, Congress' first attempt
to make the Internet safe for minors by criminalizing certain Internet
speech, was unconstitutional because it was not narrowly tailored to
serve a compelling governmental interest and because less restrictive
alternatives were available. Respondents, Web speakers and others
concerned with protecting the freedom of speech, filed suit for a preliminary injunction against COPA's enforcement. After considering testimony presented by both respondents and the Government, the District
Court granted the preliminary injunction, concluding that respondents
were likely to prevail on their argument that there were less restrictive
alternatives to COPA, particularly blocking or filtering technology.
The Third Circuit affirmed on different grounds, but this Court reversed, Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union, 535 U. S. 564. On
remand, the Third Circuit again affirmed, concluding, inter alia, that
COPA was not the least restrictive means available for the Government
to serve the interest of preventing minors from using the Internet to
gain access to harmful materials.
Held: The Third Circuit was correct to affirm the District Court's ruling
that enforcement of COPA should be enjoined because the statute likely
violates the First Amendment. Pp. 664-673.
(a) The District Court did not abuse its discretion when it enterdd
the preliminary injunction. The abuse-of-discretion standard applies
on review of such an injunction. Because 28 U. S. C. § 1254(1)'s grant
of appellate jurisdiction does not give this Court license to depart from

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