Michigan judge blocks online law

A federal judge in Michigan last week blocked enforcement of a new state law that would have criminalized online communications judged "harmful to minors" for carrying "sexually explicit matter."

Public Act 33, which would have made violations punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine of $10,000 or both, was scheduled to take effect Aug. 1. It was passed by the state legislature in the spring and signed by Gov. John Engler (R) June 2.

The American Civil Liberties Union had filed a lawsuit against Engler and Attorney General Jennifer Granholm June 23, calling the act a violation of free speech rights and the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The ACLU filed the complaint on behalf of 10 Internet firms that feared jail time and massive fines for communicating information on topics including art, sex education, gay and lesbian issues, and free speech.

Federal District Judge Arthur Tarnow agreed with the ACLU challenge, ruling that Public Act 33 would outlaw constitutionally protected free speech. His ruling prevented the law from taking effect until a full trial is held later this year.

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