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Bill Loving v. David Boren

956 F. Supp. 953 ( W.D. Okla., January 28, 1997) aff'd. 133 F. 3d 771 (10th Cir. 1998)

The State University of Oklahoma enacted a policy pursuant to which recreational use of the was provided to students and others affiliated with the University over a server which blocked access to certain news groups the University deemed to be distributing obscene materials. Those news groups (as well as all others) could be viewed by utilizing another University server -- however, access to this server was restricted to those engaging in research or other academic endeavors. This policy was enacted, in part, out of concern that permitting the general student body access to news groups containing obscene material would run afoul of Oklahoma law, which prohibits the "... distribut[ion]... [of] any obscene or indecent writing, paper, book, picture....".

Plaintiff, a professor at the University, claimed that this policy violated his First Amendment right to free speech. The court disagreed. Said the court:

The OU computer and services do not constitute a public forum. There was no evidence at trial that the facilities have ever been open to the general public or used for public communication. "[T]he state, no less than a private owner of property, has the right to preserve the property under its control for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated. In this case, the OU computer and services are lawfully dedicated to academic research uses. Within these uses, access by an adult is plenary.

In addition, the court found that plaintiff's claims were moot because notwithstanding the blocks placed on the University's computers, students could nonetheless use them to access the "blocked" news groups.

The full text of this decision can be found on a website maintained by David J. Loundy.

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