Bookstores sue over La. age-verification law
BATON ROUGE - A pair of Louisiana booksellers joined civil rights groups to file a lawsuit Wednesday over a new law requiring publishers to put age gates on their websites.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Media Coalition filed the suit on behalf of Garden District Book Shop and Octavia Books of New Orleans, as well as Future Crawfish Paper LLC who publishes the magazine Anti-Gravity, the American Booksellers Association and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
At issue is HB 153, which passed the Louisiana Legislature this past session and went into effect on Aug. 1. The law requires anyone in Louisiana who publishes items deemed "harmful to minors" on the internet should require an age gate on their site to verify the person is 18 or older. Not putting up such a gate would lead to a $10,000 fine for the publisher.
The bookstores filing the suit said that would require them to put an age-gate over their entire site or check each and every item to see if it could be considered inappropriate for minors. Putting an age-gate over the entire site would make it illegal for anyone younger than 18 to purchase books from the website at all.
"Since we cannot possibly review the one million plus titles on our website, the law would force us to ask every customer visiting our website whether he or she is an adult," said Britton Trice, owner of Garden District Book Shop. "That would have a strong and chilling effect on our business because it would make us appear to be an adult bookstore."
The suit also claims such gates violate the First Amendment rights of older minors, such as 16- or 17-year-olds who want to buy young adult novels or other works which deal with subjects which would be inappropriate for younger children.
"Parental controls are a more effective and less restrictive way for parents to limit their kids' access to sexual material on the Internet without violating the constitutional rights of adults and older minors," said David Horowitz, the executive director of Media Coalition.
The lawsuit also claims that the age-verification law is unconstitutionally vague, violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Click here to read a copy of the complaint.