The U.S. Communications Decency Act 1995

The Communications Decency Act was incorporated into the U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1995 (S. 652), which passed both houses of Congress on February 1, 1996.

Very similar to the infamous Exon amendment, the CDA states in part:

Whoever --

any comment, request suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs, regardless of whether the user of such service placed the call or initiated the communication

shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned not more than two years, or both


The Bill DOES contain a slightly protective clause, stating that no person or entity is liable for simply providing ACCESS to a site not under their control. This provision, as I understand it, means that libraries will not be liable for underage patrons viewing "offensive" material through the library's workstation, as long as the material is stored on a server that does not belong to the library.

However, this provision will force librarians to think twice about adding their own content and allowing community organizations (particularly art museums and Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual organizations) to add content to their site.

This provision is expected to be challenged in court.

For the complete text of the CDA, visit the Center for Democracy and Technology at

Note: This text was lightly edited from materials provided by Jamie McClelland <>, Libraries for the Future in Fifth Avenue, New York NY, and posted to the lists and


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