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FAQ on the COPA Commission

Q: What is COPA?

A: The Child Online Protection Act, known as COPA, was passed October 23, 1998 as part of an omnibus budget bill and was signed into law by President Clinton. The purpose of the Act is to prohibit online sites from knowingly making available to minors material that is "harmful to minors" (sexually explicit material meeting definitions set forth in the Act). Commercial providers of "harmful to minors" material may defend themselves against prosecution by restricting the access of minors to such material.

If this law were enforced, violators would be subject to fines of up to $50,000 per offense, prison terms of six months, or both. This law also created a temporary Commission to study various technological tools and methods for protecting minors from "material that is harmful to minors."

Q: What is the status of the law?

A: COPA was immediately subjected to a First Amendment challenge by the ACLU and a group of other plaintiffs. A federal judge in Philadelphia prevented the law from being enforced while the case was underway by issuing a preliminary injunction. The Justice Department appealed the injunction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which upheld the preliminary injunction.

Q: Where did the COPA Commission originate?

A: When Congress passed the COPA, it created a temporary commission of 19 members to study "various technological tools and methods for protecting minors from material that is harmful to minors." Among the methods Congress asked the COPA Commission to examine are:

  • a common resource for parents to use to help protect minors (such as a 'one-click-away' resource)
  • filtering or blocking software or services;
  • labeling or rating systems;
  • age verification systems;
  • the establishment of a domain name for posting of any material that is harmful to minors; and
  • any other existing or proposed technologies or methods for reducing access by minors to such material.

Q: When is the report due?

A: The COPA Commission was originally supposed to finish its work in November 1999. However, the full commission was not named until just a few days before the expiration date. So, Congress extended the date for another year, with language included in the 1999 omnibus budget bill. By October 21, 2000, the COPA Commission is to deliver a final report to Congress detailing each of the methods it studies.

Q: Who named the members of the commission?

A: Of the 19 COPA Commission members, COPA mandated that 16 be named by Congress. These 16 members must by statute come from eight different segments of the online industry, including makers of blocking technology, content providers, and technical experts.

The remaining three members are government officials who serve in an advisory ("ex officio") capacity.

Q: Who is on the commission?

A: The COPA Commission named Don Telage of Network Solutions, Inc., as its chairman at its March meeting.

The remaining 15 industry members are:

  • Stephen Balkam, Internet Content Rating Association
  • John Bastian, Security Software Systems
  • Jerry Berman, Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Robert C. Cotner,
  • Arthur H. DeRosier, Jr., Rocky Mountain College
  • J. Robert Flores, National Law Center for Children and Families
  • Albert F. Ganier III, Education Networks of America
  • Donna Rice Hughes, Author, Kids Online/Founder,
  • William M. Parker,
  • C. James Schmidt, San Jose State University
  • William L. Schrader, PSINet
  • Larry Shapiro, Walt Disney Internet Group
  • Srinija Srinivasan, Yahoo! Inc.
  • Karen Talbert, Nortel Networks
  • George Vradenburg III, America Online, Inc.

The three ex-officio government members are:

  • Gregory L. Rhode, Department of Commerce/NTIA
  • Michael Horowitz, Department of Justice
  • C. Lee Peeler, Federal Trade Commission

Q: When will the Commission meet?

A: The COPA Commission held its first public meeting in March 2000 at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. The second meeting was held on April 28, 2000 at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. The COPA Commission will hold three public hearings this summer.

Q: Can the public have any input on the activities of the Commission?

A: Yes. All hearings of the COPA Commission are open to the public. The public will have an opportunity to provide comments at the hearings and through this web site.

Q: How can people contact the Commission?

A: Information is no longer applicable.

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