In a ruling that could have a trickle down effect on online videogame dealers, the Ohio Supreme Court has issued its opinion on what constitutes the distribution of material that is harmful to juveniles, regarding the Internet as a medium.
The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression originally levied the suit (Am. Booksellers Found. for Free Expression v. Strickland) in Ohio, asking a court to overturn Ohio code 2907.31, which broadly deals with the dissemination of matter harmful to juveniles. A federal district court originally concluded that the code was too broad and a violation of the First Amendment, and suggested shelving enforcement of the law. That decision was appealed to a 6th Circuit Court.
The 6th Circuit Court eventually asked Ohio’s Supreme Court for an answer on two specific legal questions swirling around the case: A) should the scope of the code be applied to instant messaging, person-to-person emails and private chat rooms and B) should material posted on general websites and chat rooms be exempt from liability?
The Ohio Supreme Court answered each question in the affirmative in a 7-0 vote.
The matter will now be returned to the 6th Circuit Court who will determine the codes constitutionality.
The San Francisco Examiner noted the importance of the case for a variety of online sellers:
The group had argued the law could be applied broadly to online material and erode the constitutional free speech rights of online booksellers, newspaper publishers and video game dealers. Technology, they say, can’t always keep the harmful information from children.