Thanks to three Alaska bookstores, a Federal District Court in Anchorage has ruled to protect free speech, halting enforcement of a broad statute that would have made anyone who operates a website criminally liable for posting, selling, or loaning material that’s “harmful to minors.” The bookstore plaintiffs were Fireside Books in Palmer, Alaska, and Title Wave Books and Bosco’s Comics, both in Anchorage.
According to a Bookselling This Week article, Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said: “There are no reasonable technological means that enable a speaker on the Internet to ascertain the actual age of persons who access their communications. Individuals who fear the possibility of a minor receiving speech intended for an adult may refrain from exercising their right to free speech at all — an unacceptable result.”
Fireside Books co-owner David Cheezem told the Anchorage Press that in the last ten years he’s co-owned the store with his wife he “has learned quite a bit about his dual role as small town merchant and community busybody.” He told the paper that he was at first apprehensive about putting his store’s name on the lawsuit, mainly because the main intent of the law that it challenged was to stop adults from grooming children for sex over the Internet. He said his store doesn’t do a lot of business over the Internet but “just enough to make that law scary.” He added that he can’t know every page of every book in the store and he can’t know who he’s selling them to online.
“I feel that if you are a bookseller, and you are professional, you stand up for the First Amendment,” Cheezem told the paper. “It’s not just about moving product.” Thanks to Shelf Awareness, for pointing us in the direction of the article.