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CDA court battle remains unfinished

June 16, 1996


The ruling this week by a special court panel to block enforcement of the Communications Decency Act has been perceived as a victory not just for freedom of expression on the Internet, but for all forms of protected speech.

The law established hefty penalties for anyone who made ``indecent'' and ``patently offensive'' material available to minors over the Internet.

The terms were left undefined, and the three-judge panel ruled the law was unconstitutional.

The court let stand the provisions of the law dealing with speech not protected by the First Amendment --obscenity and child pornography.

The ruling was a victory, but the war will continue, supporters of the CDA have promised.

Because of a fast-track clause built into the Communications Decency Act, the government can appeal the panel's preliminary injunction directly to the Supreme Court. Representatives of both sides expect an appeal in the case.

The full text of the court's decision was quickly posted on a number of sites on the World-Wide Web.

Try the American Civil Liberties Union's Web site or the Voters Telecomm Watch.

SPEAKING OF CONTROL. Copyrights are vital to businesses that deal with creative content in every media -- print, video and audio, and now the Internet.

The history of rather loose and free-wheeling ``borrowing'' of images and content on Web sites has generated the attraction of many business -- and their lawyers -- in regards to improper use of copyrighted material.

Numerous Web sites have been created by fans of movies, television shows, bands and celebrities -- and in some cases, they use copyrighted material.

Copying images from existing Web sites is easy, since nearly every browser has the option of capturing an image that is displayed. Even the HTML source code can be borrowed, and adapted to a new use.

Current laws aren't clear about some parts of how copyrights extend to the Web, but rest assured that it's an issue that is getting more attention.

The safest move? Do a little research first. Some use of copyrighted material is allowed under the ``fair use'' clause. Putting Jean-Claude Van Damme on your personal Web site may be fine, but using him on a commercial site may attract the wrath of his attorneys.

A TECHNICAL SOLUTION? A new software module unveiled by Maximized Software may be a step to ease the fears of content providers on the Web.

The software, called SiteShield, provides a technical solution to copyright concerns. The software prevents Web users from downloading graphics to the Web user's hard disk, providing what the company calls a ``look but don't touch'' approach.

RETURN TO SENDER. Due to an oversight on my part, the Web address for E'town Auto Auction was incorrect in last week's column. A missing tilde set a few Web surfers straight to a dead end.

Point your browser to http://www.infi.net/~etaa/

THE YOKE'S ON MICROSOFT. An ``easter egg'' is computerese for a message embedded in software by the programmer or programmers that can be displayed with the proper commands or keystrokes.

Most often they're light-hearted messages put there to credit the software's creators and developers.

Software giant Microsoft and its programmers are not above giving a little credit where its due, and here's how to find the ``easter egg'' in Microsoft's Windows 3.1x operating systems.

  • Hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys while performing all the following steps:

  • In Program Manager, select Help, then About Program Manager. Double-click on the left side of the Windows flag logo, where it disintegrates into small squares. Nothing will happen, so click OK to close the box.

  • Again, select Help, About Program Manager, and double-click on the flag. A tiny Windows flag blowing in the wind will appear next to a general dedication to a list of Window's developers. Click OK to close the box.

  • Once again, select Help, About Program Manager, and double-click on the right portion of the flag this time. Release Ctrl and Shift. A list of e-mail IDs will scroll by in a window, with a cartoon figure pointing to the list. The figure's head will change each time you do this and click on a different pane in the Windows logo. There are four heads, including a teddy bear and a caricature of Bill Gates himself.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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