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Newshare Corp./American Reporter censorship statement

Onliners pose triple-barreled challenge to proposed muzzle bill;
Urge congressional reversal, presidential veto and Internet challenge

LOS ANGELES, Calif., Dec. 8, 1995 -- The editor of the nation's first all-digital daily newspaper threatened on Thursday to deliberately defy the language of a U.S. House cyberporn proposal if it becomes law, calling the measure a clear violation of the First Amendment.

And the president of the company which links that digital daily to the Internet said the measure, if enacted by Congress and signed by President Clinton, would threaten the future of the Internet as the emerging global information marketplace.

"The survival of free speech on the Internet is more important than even the survival of this newspaper, and we will risk its very existence to fight for a principle in which we fully believe," said Joe Shea, Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter, a 10-month-old daily which is published only on the Internet and its World Wide Web.

The paper will publish an "indecent" article to be written by Texas criminal court judge Stephen Russell in order to violate the proposed law, and then go into court to defend its right to do so under the First Amendment, Shea said.

Newshare Corp., which has hosted The American Reporter at its web site since shortly after the daily's inception on April 10, said as the cyberpaper's common carrier, it would not block Shea's efforts but would not endorse them either.

"We are akin to a printing press," said Bill Densmore, president of Newshare, the Internet's first Internet news brokerage. "If we can be held liable for the publication of protected speech, then how long will it be before AT&T, Sprint and MCI are paying fines for what people say on the phone? And how can newspapers deliver their content on the Internet free of censorship?"

Both Shea and Densmore urged a reversal vote in the joint House-Senate conference or during expected subsequent votes in the House and Senate. Densmore and Shea said they would communicate their position to the Majority and Minority Leaders of both houses.

Failing that, Densmore and Shea urged the president to veto the entire telecommunications bill.

"The effects of this bill would be sufficiently destructive to merit sending lawmakers back until they come up with a solution that doesn't kill the Internet for publishers by making it the most heavily regulated medium in the United States," Shea and Densmore said in a joint statement. "The best Internet censor is a loving and attentive parent."

In the event the bill is enacted, the American Reporter's Joe Shea pledged, "I will post material that courts have considered "indecent." Last summer, at the time of the passage of the Exon Amendment in the Senate Joe Shea promised to challenge the law if enacted, and received considerable support.

Since that time, Judge Stephen Russell of Texas agreed to write the "indecent" article Shea had vowed to publish if the bill becomes law, and Randall Boe, an attorney with the large Washington, D.C. law firm Arent Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn, a distinguished First Amendment proponent that litigated the "Seven Dirty Words" case, agreed to represent The American Reporter in an action that would be pursued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, to overturn it. Now, Shea has dusted off the plan to attack the current proposed wording of the law. For Shea's editorial on the subject, see http://www.newshare.com/Reporter/cybercensor.html.

To enable a joint initial challenge to the law, Shea has already contacted other editors and publishers, and he volunteered the American Reporter's Web site as a place to announce links to other sites that publicly repost his or similar material. (This site is hosted by Newshare, which, said Densmore, "will act as The American Reporter's First Amendment printing press.") In doing so under the new law, the publishers could be subject to $100,000 fines and two-year prison sentences.

Newshare published in June a policy on parental control over online materials (found at http://www.newshare.com/News/parent.html in which it declared that publishers should ask users whether they wish objectionable material blocked, and content providers the should decide what to flag as offensive.

"A publisher who fails to label such material should be punished by the public through the marketplace, not by Big Brother in Washington," said Densmore. "The Internet is not a form of broadcasting, where the government may justify censorship, as it does on the airwaves, in the name of protecting the public. Congress' deliberations reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the future of the Internet as a source of personalized information and commerce."

In condemning the House Conference Committee's narrow vote to censor constitutionally protected speech online, Densmore and Shea noted the last-minute substitution of the vague and overly broad "indecency" criterion supported by the Christian Coalition instead of the original "harmful to minors" standard contained in the previous proposal.

Densmore's letter to Rep. Rick White on the impact of the law on publishing businesses online can be found at http://www.newshare.com/News/parent1.html.

Williamstown, Massachusetts-based Newshare Corporation, Internet's first news brokerage, enables the by-subscription and charge-per-page delivery (via billable hypertext links) of news and time-sensitive information by publishers, broadcasters and entrepreneurs to users of the World Wide Web. In the coming months, Newshare will release the Clickshare(sm) System that tracks movements and settles charges for digital transactions -- down to as little as 10 cents per query -- as users jump among multiple unrelated Web sites. For more, go to http://www.newshare.com/ or http://www.clickshare.com/clickshare.

Los Angeles, California-based The American Reporter is a five-day-per week electronic "newshare" owned by the writers whose work it features. It was founded to give journalists around the world an opportunity to have a financial stake in their own work. Each story carried by The American Reporter earns equity for the correspondent in future profits from advertising and subscriptions, and revenue when their stories sell to other newspapers. For more go to http://www.newshare.com/Reporter/.

For the latest on the bill, send email to or go to one of these web sites:
Center for Democracy and Technology (public interest group)
Voters Telecommunications Watch (public interest group)
Alliance for Competitive Telecommunications (regional phone companies' update page)

Joe Shea, The American Reporter, joeshea@netcom.com
Felix Kramer, Newshare Corp., felix@newshare.com, 212/866-4864
Bill Densmore, Newshare Corp., bill@newshare.com, 413/458-8001

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Williamstown, MA 01267-0367 USA
Voice: (413) 458-8001 / Fax: (413) 458-8002
Email: mail@newshare.com

Newshare is a service mark of Newshare Corp. Clickshare is a service mark of Clickshare Corp.
Copyright 1995 Newshare Corp. All rights reserved.
Last modified 03-10-96 mjc