Children's Internet Protection Act - Summary
Congress passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000 with the intent of protecting minors from visual depictions that are obscene, are child pornography or material considered harmful to minors. CIPA required schools and public libraries to filter all computers that access the Internet if they accept certain federal funds. Public libraries were given a reprieve from the act pending the outcome of a lawsuit brought by the American Library Association. In June 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of CIPA and public libraries were forced to consider the budgetary, policy, and technological impact of their decisions on filtering. In order to give libraries the information they needed to make informed decisions the State Library held four workshops at various locations in the state on filtering software and the specifics of the CIPA requirements. Dr. David Ives, from NELINET, conducted the workshops.;
This is a summary of the CIPA requirement based on these workshops and various articles and website.
First, CIPA requirements only apply to libraries that receive E-Rate discounts for Internet Access or Internal Connections from the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Fund, or Library Service and Technology Act (LSTA) funds to pay for a computer to access the Internet or to pay for direct costs to access to the Internet.
Only libraries receiving discounts on Internet Access or Internal Connections must comply with CIPA. Libraries receiving discounts on telecommunications only are not required to be CIPA compliant. A question was raised at the filtering workshops about telecommunication lines that carry both voice and data and connect the library’s access point to the Internet. I raised this question in an email to the SLD that asked in part:
“ . . . if a library has a T1 line to a provider that also supplies their Internet Access, and does not plan to filter, are they still eligible for discounts on the telecommunications portion of the bill? [Also, if] . . . a library has a line through the State Network and the State is giving them the Internet Access for free so they aren't asking for discounts [Internet Access] . . I assume since they are applying for discounts on telecom only, they are not subject to CIPA requirements.”
In answer the SLD replied:
“Item 11 C on the 486 states: the Children's Internet Protection Act . . . does not apply because the recipient(s) of service represented in the Funding Request Number(s) on this Form 486 is (are) receiving discount services only for telecommunications services. This specifically means that if it falls into the Telecommunications "bucket" on your Form 471 block 5 funding request it is exempt from CIPA requirements.”
Although the State Library will be following this advice and applying for telecommunications only and will not be CIPA compliant, this remains a gray area and libraries should use their own judgment about their application. The SLD will answer email questions about your specific situation. If a library applies for discounts on Internet Access or Internal Connections they are subject to CIPA's filtering requirements and must undertake efforts in funding year 2003 (beginning July 1, 2003) to comply by funding year 2004. By that time no library may receive universal service discounts unless the library certifies "that they are enforcing a policy of Internet safety as defined by NCIPA and that their policy of Internet safety also includes the use of a "technology protection measure" including filtering software." Libraries will certify that they are complying with CIPA on the Form 486: Receipt of Service Confirmation Form.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which administers LSTA funds, requires each State Library to assure the Federal Government "that no funds will be made available for public libraries and public elementary and secondary school libraries, that do not receive E-rate discounts, to purchase computers to access the Internet or pay for the direct costs of accessing the Internet unless the libraries have certified that they have Internet safety policies and technology protection measures, e.g., software filtering technology, in place." Therefore, IMLS certification is only required if LSTA funds are used to purchase computers to access the Internet or pay direct costs of accessing the Internet. If public or school libraries already certify under E-rate, no additional certification is required. For public libraries, this requirement is for Program Year 2004 funds. For schools, this requirement began with FY 2003 funds. Although the State Library currently has no LSTA grant categories specifically for computers or Internet access, we will be adding a CIPA certification form for all grants in case libraries use funds in another category to purchase an Internet accessible computer. If a library uses grant funds only for material, staff and supplies they are not required to comply with CIPA.
So What Does CIPA Require?
In order to be CIPA compliant, libraries must install a technology protection measure (filter) on all computers in the library with access to the Internet – including staff computers. Libraries must make a good faith effort to block visual depictions that are obscene, that are child pornography or that are harmful to minors. CIPA defines minors as those below the age of 17. So only images, not text needs to be filtered. Of course part of the frustration with CIPA is that filters can’t block images, only text. In addition, the filtering software must be disabled at the request of an adult for “bona fide research or other lawful purpose.” The library must do so in a timely manner and must not question the adult about their reasons for their request. Libraries may post a sign at their public access stations advising patrons of their right to request unfiltered access. Under LSTA rules a minor may also request that the filter be disabled. If a library receives funds through both E-Rate and LSTA, the E-Rate requirements take precedence. At the filtering workshops David Ives indicated that most filtering software could be disabled with a three-keystroke command and a password so that isn’t difficult. Of course remembering to re-enable the software will be.
CIPA also requires the library to implement an Internet Safety Policy that addresses access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet as defined by local library board, safety of minors when using email, unauthorized access, unlawful activities by minors, unauthorized disclosure of personal information about minors and measures to restrict minors’ access to harmful materials. The library and its board decide the standard of what constitutes material harmful to minors based on local community standards. Libraries must hold a public hearing on their Internet Safety Policy before it is implemented.
Bob Bocher, A CIPA toolkit: answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Supreme Court's June ruling that upheld the filtering requirement in the Children's Internet Protection Act. Library Journal, August 2003 v128 i13 p36(2).
The American Library Association Website offers guidance, interpretations, FAQ, etc. Go to www.ala.org. Click on Issues and Advocacy and then on CIPA.
This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License