SW Legal studies in Business

Federal Law Blocks Application of State Obscenity Law to Internet Service Providers
Description The Florida high court held that the federal Communications Decent Act preempts state law regarding the distribution of illegal child pornography via the Internet. The mother of a child whose photographs were taken by a child pornographer who marketed the photos on AOL could not sue AOL.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Communications Decency Act; Internet Service Provider; Chat Rooms; Emotional Distress
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Jane Doe, mother of John Doe, a minor, sued America Online (AOL), an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to recover for emotional injuries suffered by her son, then age eleven, who was lured by Richard Lee Russell to engage in sexual activity with him, which was photographed and videotaped. Doe alleges that Russell used AOL's chat rooms to market the photos and videos, although they were not shown on the Internet. She sued AOL for negligence for allowing Russell to distribute an advertisement offering child pornography, stating that AOL knew of this activity or should have known of it. The trial court dismissed the suit with prejudice, finding that Congress provided ISP immunity in the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Doe appealed to the Florida high court.
Decision Affirmed. The federal CDA preempted Florida law as to causes of action based on negligence against ISPs as distributors of information allegedly in violation of Florida's statutes prohibiting the distribution of child pornography and other illegal materials. The CDA applies to all suits filed after it was enacted, even if the cause of action is based on events that occurred prior to passage of the CDA.
Citation Doe v. America Online, Inc., - So.2d - (2001 WL 228446, Sup. Ct., Fla., 2001)

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