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Speech / First Amendment Law

Cases: Stern v. Delphi Internet Services Corp.
(In Depth Summary)
(Actual Text)
Stern v. Delphi Internet Services Corp. represents a rare foray into First Amendment law by a state trial court. Stern is noteworthy because the court held that an Internet service provider is a news disseminator and therefore entitled to the same First Amendment protections as a library, a news vendor, a newspaper or a television network in the context of this case. More specifically, the court held that such a provider was entitled to use the photograph of a celebrity running for governor without his permission to advertise its on-line bulletin board service set up to debate his candidacy because of the "incidental use" exception to a state law which otherwise forbade such use. That exception essentially provides that a news disseminator is entitled to display the name and photograph of a person who is the subject of the services it provides for the purpose of attracting and selling those services.

In so ruling, the court observed that the First Amendment protects news distributors of publications, and similarly "[a]ffording [First Amendment] protection to on-line computer services when they are engaged in traditional news dissemination, such as in this case, is the desirable and required result." Like Reno, then, Stern affirms the notion that Internet service providers are entitled to full First Amendment protection.

Copyright SRBC 1998 up