Ohio Court Revamps “Harmful To Minors” Internet Law

Robin Marty

"Harmful to minors" becomes more narrowly defined in Ohio, making some who teach about contraception and sexuality rest a little easier.

What constitutes “harmful to minors?”  It’s an issue that has only been partially resolved by a recent court of appeals ruling in Ohio on a narrow definition of the phrase pertaining to information found on the internet.

Marty Klein, an online publisher who provides content on a variety of sexual health topics ranging from contraception to nudity, fought a law passed in 2000 criminalizing the act of providing any sexually explicit material on the internet aimed at minors, without defining what “sexually explicit” is or how in fact it is provided to the minor.  

The court of appeals in response to numerous attempts to rewrite the law after it was overturned, has now settled on a definition:

Yesterday a federal Court of Appeals ruled that the statute must be construed narrowly. People can only be prosecuted for sending sexually explicit, non-obscene material to a known minor through “personally directed” electronic communication such as person-to-person email. While I don’t agree with this approach either, at least it’s the same standard restricting what material can be given to a minor in person.

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The rule still remains broad and somewhat ambiguous, but should no longer apply to health sites that attempt to teach sex ed information such as contraception and how sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy occur.

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