A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued Monday that the government\u2019s defense of the controversial Child Online Protection Act (COPA) was inconsistent in defining what kind of online content is harmful to minors, and so the law should continue to remain unenforceable because it violates free speech.Chris Hansen, a staff attorney for the ACLU, said that witnesses in the government\u2019s case in support of COPA could not seem to agree on what kind of sexually explicit material or content that shows human nudity is offensive and what has artistic, scientific or political value. Because of this, COPA can be interpreted broadly and can be imposed upon legitimate websites such as Nerve.com, Salon.com and the Sexual Health Network, which all were named as co-plaintiffs in the case, the ACLU argued.Hansen made his arguments supporting why COPA is unconstitutional in a Philadelphia courtroom as part of closing arguments in ACLU v. Gonzalez, a four-week trial that wrapped up Monday.Hansen said that alternatives to a federal law\u2014such as content filters, parental supervision and education\u2014are effective in preventing children from being exposed to indecent and pornographic material online. He also argued that because COPA protects only content that is sent to the Web via HTTP and not Web-based content in instant messages, voice over IP or content sent via FTP, it is too narrow to truly protect children from pornographic content online.In the law\u2019s defense, attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice tried to poke holes in the ACLU\u2019s arguments, rejecting its claims that there are effective alternatives to COPA, such as parental monitoring and content filters, to protect children from harmful material online."Single-parent households are common, as are places where two parents work full time," said Joel McElvain, a Justice Department attorney. "It\u2019s nice to imagine every family can constantly keep in contact with their children\u2019s [Internet usage], but they need further help. COPA offers that help."McElvain also listed examples of sites that do not violate COPA that are blocked by well-known content filters. In this way, filters sometimes serve to block children from accessing helpful websites, thus "hindering children form learning about the world around them," he said.Justice Department lawyers also requested that Judge Lowell A. Reed Jr., who is hearing the case, rule that the ACLU and several of its co-plaintiffs in the case\u2014Free Speech Media, Philadelphia Gay News, Powell\u2019s Bookstores, Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression\u2014have no legal standing in the case because their members were not called to testify about how COPA affected them. If Reed makes that decision, the ACLU\u2019s entire case would be irrelevant.The trial in Philadelphia was the culmination of eight years of litigation by the ACLU against COPA, which was signed into law in 1998. The law can impose severe criminal and civil penalties\u2014including stiff fines\u2014on individuals\u00a0who put up content on the Web that the government considers harmful to minors.Previously, a federal district court in Philadelphia and a federal appeals court found COPA unconstitutional, and in 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this ban on enforcing COPA. However, the Supreme Court also returned the ACLU\u2019s case against it to a Pennsylvania district court for a trial to see whether there are effective ways to keep children safe online that infringe upon speech less than COPA\u2019s criminal penalties. The deadline for the parties in ACLU v. Gonzalez to submit any more materials for the discovery phase is Dec. 7. The judge is expected to rule by early next year.-Elizabeth Montalbano, IDG News Service (New York Bureau)Related Link:\n\nTrial Challenging Child Online Protection Act StartsCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.