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August 07, 2001 07:22am
Last month it was Ashcroft, this month it's George W, himself!
Source: Letters to the Editor
by: Lawrence G. Walters

The President has kicked off his "Values Campaign," which will include a critique of what he considers the degradation of American culture through excessively violent and sexually explicit movies and television shows that mock traditional values. Where have we heard that nonsense before? From Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who has solicited Bush's help with his censorship legislation seeking to hold media producers responsible for marketing mature content to minors. The Media Marketing Accountability Act of 2001 would increase the powers of the Federal Trade Commission in connection with enforcement of deceptive advertising practices against entertainment companies. No response from the Bush camp, yet.

As the conservative politicians are banning together, so are the Adult Industry groups: Recently, the Free Speech Coalition, www.FreeSpeechCoalition.com, announced that it would merge with the Global Internet Alliance (GIA), an organization of leading adult webmasters, in an effort to combine forces in order to achieve greater lobbying strength. "I think it strengthens both of our organizations to come together like this," said Bill Lyon, the FSC Executive Director. The GIA originally formed to combat problems that webmasters were having with the credit card companies. Now, they realize that the problems facing the Adult Industry, webmasters included, are much larger than originally anticipated. This is particularly true given "the hassles the Republicans are going to try and generate for the Internet." This merger is further evidence of the conversion occurring between various facets of the adult entertainment industry, which formerly maintained separate identities.

No matter how bad it gets here, just be glad you don't live in Iran. Twenty Iranians were recently flogged in the public square in Tehran for selling "obscene" compact discs and videotapes, according to the official news agency. Virtually any adult material is considered "obscene" in Iran, where women must cover most of their bodies. Despite the flogging, other dealers continued to sell similar material not far from where the punishment occurred. Whether any of the allegedly "obscene" discs or tapes included flogging was not disclosed.

It is no secret that Internet filtering software is not perfect, and can be avoided by most teenagers, even those with minimal computer skills. A search for non-sexual terms will generate a healthy dose of erotic websites. However, a fledgling Internet security firm called MessageLabs recently unveiled software that actually distinguishes between "artistic" nudes and adult material. The firm boasts 95% accuracy and claims that the software even includes "posture recognition" to help weed out offensive images. This brings new meaning to "Girls Lean Back Everywhere."

Adult webmasters are closely following an obscenity case against Michael A. Jones, from Greenwood Illinois. Jones has been charged with 9 misdemeanor counts of obscenity and 5 counts of child pornography following a search of his home and computers. Jones' website sells CD-ROMs, with digital images and video clips, to other websites; he is essentially a "content distributor." McHenry County Sheriffs raided Jones' house and business in October and searched for about 5 hours before seizing computers and thousands of CD's. Police conceded that most of the thousands of images and videos were legal, but determined that images of suspected minors and "extreme sadomasochistic" images of women crossed the line. Since this is one of the first cases to test the obscenity laws relating to content distributed online, it will be followed with great interest by the adult webmaster community.

Utah's newly-appointed porn czar, Paula Houston, recently asked the United States Attorneys Office to consider bringing federal obscenity charges in connection with ten unsolicited emails that contained links to websites with sexual content or attached sexual images, according to Yahoo! News. "There are some that are very sexually graphic," Houston said. Is this the first time she's seen these things that clog our in boxes on a daily basis? A spokesperson for the United States Attorneys office in Utah confirmed that the cases are being actively investigated.

Another case of interest involves the First Amendment right to anonymous speech on the Internet. The New Jersey Superior Court recently upheld an earlier ruling that a corporation cannot obtain the identity of an anonymous user of an Internet message board since it did not demonstrate that it suffered "harm" from the user's posts. The Court's decision also asked future courts faced with these types of requests to come up with a series of guidelines to govern when anonymous users' identities may be divulged. This case will potentially set a precedent for the recurring issue of the level of protection to be afforded anonymous speech on the Internet.

The Adobe Systems Corporation is in some hot water over its cooperation with the FBI in an effort to arrest a Russian software developer accused of finding a way to circumvent the security features in Adobe's Acrobat eBook Reader. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a technological civil liberties group, announced that it would call for a rally against Adobe to protest its cooperation with the Government. The EFF called the arrest "disgraceful."

Beware the lure of offshore transfers! Recently, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Jack Cohen, for illegal offshore gambling activities, stemming from his relationship with offshore casino web sites. Cohen argued that all of the gambling occurred offshore, in countries where gambling was legal. The Appeals Court rejected the argument, and upheld his conviction. U.S v. Cohen, 2001 WL 863590 (2d Cir. July 31, 2001). For more information on the dangers of "offshore" relationships for webmasters, read the author's recent article on the subject found at: http://www.lawrencewalters.com/offshore.php3

While the Adult Internet Industry continues to grow, as evidenced by the growing attendance at the recent Internext Convention in Las Vegas, traditional adult print media is struggling. It was recently reported that Penthouse Publisher Bob Guccione has been forced to sell two plots of land in Atlantic City to pay off a reported $28 million in debts. Apparently, General Media's $56 million in liabilities exceed its assets by more than two to one. Even its Web site is struggling. "There are sites on the Internet much more explicit than anything he can do," says an insider. One magazine analyst, Martin Walker, notes: "Young kids don't need the same erotica any more. The changes in sexual mores in this country mean they have access to the real thing." Oh, to be young again.

Lawrence G. Walters, Esquire is a partner with the law firm of Weston, Garrou & DeWitt, based in Los Angeles. Mr. Walters runs the firm's Florida office, and represents clients involved in all aspects of adult media. Weston, Garrou & DeWitt handles First Amendment cases nationwide, and has been involved in significant Free Speech litigation before the United States Supreme Court. All statements made in the above article are matters of opinion only, and should not be considered legal advice. Please consult your own attorney on specific legal matters. You can reach Lawrence Walters at Larry@LawrenceWalters.com or www.FreeSpeechLaw.com

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