Booksellers Sue to Overturn Louisiana's New Age Verification Law

Posted on November 5, 2015

Publishers and booksellers have filed a federal lawsuit to challenge Louisiana's age-verification law for online book and magazine sales which are not adult in nature.The new law is aimed at mainstream booksellers and comic book sellers, not adult sites. It will hit booksellers and comic book sellers hard. It requires that every user be age-verified to ensure no minor gets access to material "that could be deemed harmful."

The suit was brought by Media Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the American Booksellers Association, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, independent bookstores, Garden District Book Shop and Octavia Books, and Future Crawfish Paper LLC, publisher of Anti-Gravity magazine.

The new law hits booksellers with a $10,000 fine if they don't ensure that buyers are over eighteen if they are looking at material that might be inappropriate for them. This law will make it a crime to sell a Young Adult title that's somehow deemed inappropriate to a teenager. Britton Trice, the owner of the Garden District Book Shop, explained how onerous the new law is for his store:

“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. That would have a strong and chilling effect on our business because it would make us appear to be an adult bookstore."

Tom Lowenburg, the co-owner of Octavia Books, said in a statement, "The law is a serious threat to the First Amendment rights of booksellers and our customers. Our job is to get customers the books they want, but this law makes it impossible by forcing us to block access to 16- and 17-year-olds who want to browse Young Adult novels and other works that may be inappropriate for younger minors."

The executive director of Media Coalition David Horiwitz says the law clearly violates the First Amendment as it violates free speech rights. He addresses the concerns of parents worried about inappropriate material on the Internet, "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."

The lawsuit claims that the the age-verification law is unconstitutionally vague, violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the First Amendment and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. You can read the full complaint in the lawsuit here.

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