Supreme Court lets the Child Online Porn Protection Act die quietly.

 A 13-year legal drive to shield children from pornography on the Internet ended in defeat today when the Supreme Court let the Child Online Protection Act die quietly.

The measure, which never went into effect, made it a crime to put sexually explicit material on a website for commercial gain unless the sponsor used some means, such as requiring a credit card, to keep out minors.

It was repeatedly blocked from taking effect on free-speech grounds by judges, including by the Supreme Court in 2004. The justices had also voided an earlier, even broader law passed in 1996 that prohibited “indecency” on the Web.

The outcome preserves the Web as a wide-open forum for free expression. It also leaves to parents the duty to install software filters if they wish to block pornography on their home computers.

The judges in Philadelphia who struck down the law last year called these filters an “equally effective” means of protecting children from pornography on the Web.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the challenged law would crimp free speech on the Web for adults and would not shield children, because at least half of the sexually explicit websites are outside the United States.

The Supreme Court considered the appeal in two closed-door meetings in recent weeks and said today it had been turned down without comment. The case was Mukasey vs. ACLU.

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