Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2002 1 Syllabus (
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
UNITED STATES ET AL. v. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, INC., ET AL.
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
No. 02361. Argued March 5, 2003Decided June 23, 2003
Two forms of federal assistance help public libraries provide patrons with Internet access: discounted rates under the E-rate program and grants under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Upon discovering that library patrons, including minors, regularly search the Internet for pornography and expose others to pornographic im-ages by leaving them displayed on Internet terminals or printed at library printers, Congress enacted the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which forbids public libraries to receive federal assis-tance for Internet access unless they install software to block obscene or pornographic images and to prevent minors from accessing mate-rial harmful to them. Appellees, a group of libraries, patrons, Web site publishers, and related parties, sued the Government, challeng-ing the constitutionality of CIPA's filtering provisions. Ruling that CIPA is facially unconstitutional and enjoining the Government from withholding federal assistance for failure to comply with CIPA, the District Court held, inter alia, that Congress had exceeded its authority under the Spending Clause because any public library that complies with CIPA's conditions will necessarily violate the First Amendment; that the CIPA filtering software constitutes a content-based restriction on access to a public forum that is subject to strict scrutiny; and that, although the Government has a compelling inter-est in preventing the dissemination of obscenity, child pornography, or material harmful to minors, the use of software filters is not nar-rowly tailored to further that interest.
Held: The judgment is reversed.
201 F. Supp. 2d 401, reversed.
2 UNITED STATES v. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSN., INC. Syllabus
CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST, joined by JUSTICE O'CONNOR, JUSTICE SCALIA, and JUSTICE THOMAS, concluded:
1. Because public libraries' use of Internet filtering software does not violate their patrons' First Amendment rights, CIPA does not in-duce libraries to violate the Constitution, and is a valid exercise of Congress' spending power. Congress has wide latitude to attach con-ditions to the receipt of federal assistance to further its policy objec-tives, South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U. S. 203, 206, but may not "induce" the recipient "to engage in activities that would themselves be uncon-stitutional," id., at 210. To determine whether libraries would violate the First Amendment by employing the CIPA filtering software, the Court first examines their societal role. To fulfill their traditional missions of facilitating learning and cultural enrichment, public li-braries must have broad discretion to decide what material to provide to their patrons. This Court has held in two analogous contexts that the Government has broad discretion to make content-based judg-ments in deciding what private speech to make available to the pub-lic. Arkansas Ed. Television Comm'n v. Forbes, 523 U. S. 666, 672674; National Endowment for Arts v. Finley, 524 U. S. 569, 585586. Just as forum analysis and heightened judicial scrutiny were incompatible with the role of public television stations in the former case and the role of the National Endowment for the Arts in the latter, so are they incompatible with the broad discretion that public libraries must have to consider content in making collection decisions. Thus, the public forum principles on which the District Court relied are out of place in the context of this case. Internet access in public libraries is neither a "traditional" nor a "designated" public forum. See, e.g., Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense & Ed. Fund, Inc., 473 U. S. 788, 802803. Unlike the "Student Activity Fund" at issue in Rosenberger
v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U. S. 819, 834, Internet ter-minals are not acquired by a library in order to create a public forum for Web publishers to express themselves. Rather, a library provides such access for the same reasons it offers other library resources: to facilitate research, learning, and recreational pursuits by furnishing materials of requisite and appropriate quality. The fact that a li-brary reviews and affirmatively chooses to acquire every book in its collection, but does not review every Web site that it makes available, is not a constitutionally relevant distinction. The decisions by most libraries to exclude pornography from their print collections are not subjected to heightened scrutiny; it would make little sense to treat libraries' judgments to block online pornography any differently. Moreover, because of the vast quantity of material on the Internet and the rapid pace at which it changes, libraries cannot possibly seg-regate, item by item, all the Internet material that is appropriate for
Cite as: 539 U. S. ____ (2003) 3 Syllabus
inclusion from all that is not. While a library could limit its Internet collection to just those sites it found worthwhile, it could do so only at the cost of excluding an enormous amount of valuable information that it lacks the capacity to review. Given that tradeoff, it is entirely reasonable for public libraries to reject that approach and instead ex-clude certain categories of content, without making individualized judgments that everything made available has requisite and appro-priate quality. Concerns over filtering software's tendency to errone-ously "overblock" access to constitutionally protected speech that falls outside the categories software users intend to block are dispelled by the ease with which patrons may have the filtering software disabled. Pp. 613.
2. CIPA does not impose an unconstitutional condition on libraries that receive E-rate and LSTA subsidies by requiring them, as a con-dition on that receipt, to surrender their First Amendment right to provide the public with access to constitutionally protected speech. Assuming that appellees may assert an "unconstitutional conditions" claim, that claim would fail on the merits. When the Government appropriates public funds to establish a program, it is entitled to broadly define that program's limits. Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U. S. 173, 194. As in Rust, the Government here is not denying a benefit to anyone, but is instead simply insisting that public funds be spent for the purpose for which they are authorized: helping public libraries fulfill their traditional role of obtaining material of requisite and ap-propriate quality for educational and informational purposes. Espe-cially because public libraries have traditionally excluded porno-graphic material from their other collections, Congress could reasonably impose a parallel limitation on its Internet assistance programs. As the use of filtering software helps to carry out these programs, it is a permissible condition under Rust. Appellees mis-takenly contend, in reliance on Legal Services Corporation v. Velaz-quez, 531 U. S. 533, 542543, that CIPA's filtering conditions distort the usual functioning of public libraries. In contrast to the lawyers who furnished legal aid to the indigent under the program at issue in Velazquez, public libraries have no role that pits them against the Government, and there is no assumption, as there was in that case, that they must be free of any conditions that their benefactors might attach to the use of donated funds. Pp. 1317.