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The New York Times Hearings End in Online Pornography Case By PAMELA MENDELS PHILADELPHIA -- A federal online pornography law will either unconstitutionally chill free speech on a variety of commercial Web sites or spur the creation of sensible screens between children and sites that exist to sell pornography Those were the opposing views expressed Wednesday during the final day of hearings in United States District Court here to decide whether the new law the Child Online Protection Act should be blocked by a preliminary injunction Judge Lowell A Reed Jr had asked both sides to be prepared to respond to a list of 19 questions he had regarding the case And in their answers lawyers continued to try to build their cases for or against the law Ann Beeson a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union which is fighting the law said that the statute would require free Web sites containing certain sexually explicit material either to eliminate that content or risk driving viewers away through registration or age-verification mechanisms Therefore she said the law creates a very strong financial disincentive to create or publish work adding that there is a risk of a chilling effect on free speech But Justice Department lawyers defending the law argued that its language is clear enough to apply only to sites that exist to promote pornography Furthermore said one of the lawyers Rupa Bhattacharyya The First Amendment allows you to speak freely it does not necessarily guarantee you a profit to speak The law requires operators of commercial Web sites to bar those under 17 years of age from any sexually explicit material defined as harmful to minors Violators face penalties of up to 6 months in prison and 50000 in fines Judge Reed is expected to issue a decision sometime Monday before the midnight expiration of a temporary restraining order that has blocked the law from
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