Speech / First Amendment Law
Cases: Religious Tech. Center v. Netcom On-Line Communications Services, Inc.,
Finally, Religious Tech. Center v. Netcom On-Line Communications Services, Inc., and two related cases demonstrate that the First Amendment provides some limited protection against a seizure of computer equipment from a defendant accused of copyright infringement. Although two other courts permitted the defendants's actual computer hardware to be seized at least initially, in Netcom, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California refused to follow suit, even though the plaintiff asserted that the seizure was necessary to prevent continued posting to the Internet of its allegedly protected works. The court held that, while an appropriately tailored injunction in a copyright case did not offend the First Amendment, "attempting to shut down a critic's speech activities, including those that do not implicate the copyright laws in the least, would constitute an unwarranted prior restraint on speech." These cases together illustrate the risks run, and potential protections available to, alleged copyright violators who use the Internet.