The latest in an increasingly long line of freedom of speech v. Internet regulations court cases has begun in Georgia with a plea from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to prevent enforcement of the state?s Computer Systems Protection Act.
The Act, which came into effect last July, forbids anyone from using a false identity when sending email or accessing Web pages or from putting any registered trademark on a home page without permission. ACLU argues that banning anonymous Net communication will curtail freedom of speech.
But Georgia state legal advisors say this is not the intention and claim that the Act does not prohibit the use of pseudonyms or anonymous communication. It is there, they argue, to protect consumers from being ripped off by false advertisers who exploit recognised trademarks to attract business.
The Republican State Representative for Georgia Don Parsons, who sponsored the Act, dismisses the infringement of liberties claims. "This is a pro-consumer and pro-business piece of legislation," he said.
ACLU is supported in its case by various healthcare groups, such as AIDS advisory organisations who argue that confidentiality may be a prerequisite for potential users of their sites.
Opponents of the Act also worry that by forbidding the use of trademarks it will limit the potential to link mutually relevant sites because obtaining permission from the trademark owners would cost too much time and money.
It is alleged by some in the anti-Act camp that its inception was influenced by phone company Bell South, which last year filed a law suit against a Web design company called realpages.com, a domain name which the phone company wanted to use for the online version of its Real Yellow Pages telephone directory. Parsons, who is a Bell South employee, denies the allegation.
The ACLU hearing was due to begin on Thursday afternoon with the presiding judge being given a crash course in the Internet.
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