Tuesday, April 8, 1997

Reno Recoils. Annoy.com Wins First Round in Communications Decency Act Challenge

William Bennett Turner
Rogers, Joseph, O'Donnell & Quinn
Telephone: 415/956-2828
wturner@rjoq.com

RENO RECOILS. ANNOY.COM WINS FIRST ROUND IN COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT CHALLENGE

April 8, 1997, San Francisco -- Clinton D. Fein, president of the San Francisco based multimedia firm ApolloMedia Corporation, announced today that the company attorneys and the Attorney General agreed to a stay of further briefing of and oral argument on their challenge to the Communications Decency Act. ApolloMedia filed a lawsuit against Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States, challenging the constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) on January 30, 1997. The lawsuit was filed concurrently with the launch of the company's "annoy.com" web site. The CDA was signed into law by President Clinton in February 1996, which makes the communication of anything "indecent with the intent to annoy", a felony punishable by a fine and up to two years imprisonment.

The critically acclaimed and highly controversial annoy.com (http://annoy.com) web site has evoked global reactions from Yugoslavia to the West Bank for its unapologetic and hard-hitting, in-your-face approach to political and social issues, and its irreverent use of technology. It even provoked a cautious warning from the New York Times to the President and other politicians. The site allows visitors to the web site to send anonymous email messages or digital postcards to politicians and public figures that could be considered "indecent" with an "intent" to "annoy". They can also participate in unmediated and unfiltered threaded discussions ranging from gun control to abortion and the military. Under the CDA, ApolloMedia could be committing a felony, both because of the services it provides to its clients and as host of annoy.com.

"This is clearly a First Amendment victory and the Attorney General has done what she had to do," said Fein. "As importantly, our challenge precludes her from using "children" as a defense, and so we agreed to extend the period in order to give her time to attempt to formulate opposition that purports to hold some constitutional muster, if she can, while allowing all parties to be guided by the Supreme Court's decision." ApolloMedia also filed an amicus brief in the current challenge before the Supreme Court.

"It was no problem to allow the government more time to continue its hopeless quest for a rationale that purports to justify this vague and unconstitutional statute," said Michael Traynor of Cooley Godward LLP, one of the First Amendment experts representing ApolloMedia. "Meanwhile annoy.com can advance without the imminent threat of prosecution."

"The government's disarray is almost comical, said well known First Amendment attorney William Bennett Turner of Rogers Joseph O'Donnell & Quinn, also representing ApolloMedia. "No matter how long they take, the government won't be able to concoct a defense of this clumsy law that stands a chance under the First Amendment."

Fein adds that the response to ApolloMedia's challenge by most American media has been mixed. "This is not a CNN sound bite. We've just won the first round of a battle that has global implications," he said, "I appreciate the praise, and don't give a fuck about the carping. I'm more concerned with annoy.com's stated mission, which already, in its infancy, provides mechanisms that level the political playing field, and allow people a voice that has been taken away from them. Veiled references to Larry Flynt are like water off a ducks back."

ApolloMedia is being represented by William Bennett Turner of Rogers, Joseph, O'Donnell & Quinn and Michael Traynor and Tsan Merritt-Poree of Cooley Godward LLP.

- x x x -

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Clinton D. Fein
President, ApolloMedia Corporation
Telephone: 415/552-7655
clinton@annoy.com

 
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