US Censorship News

 2007: Jan-March

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24th March    Rated R for Ridiculous...
 

   
Captivity postersUS Government to Take a Hard Look at Horror

From the New York Times

To drive almost anywhere here this week is to run a gantlet of advertising for movies about killing. All rated R for violence, among other traits, the films belong to what has become an annual winter-spring crop of horror and suspense. But the harvest is trickier than usual this year, as Hollywood braces for a new government review of the marketing of violent entertainment to the young.

The Federal Trade Commission is putting the final touches on a follow-up to its September 2000 report on the marketing to children of violent movies, music and video games. The first such assessment in three years, it will examine the selling practices of a mainstream entertainment industry that in the interim has become increasingly dependent on abductions, maimings, decapitations and other mayhem once kept away from studio slates.

Seven years ago the film industry narrowly avoided federal regulation of its advertising practices, as politicians, in the wake of the Columbine High School killings, called executives before a Congressional committee but eventually agreed to let Hollywood police itself.

The effectiveness of the resulting marketing guidelines is now being tested by rougher movies, competitors not bound by strictures that apply to the trade association’s major studio members, and a flourishing Web culture that has driven big openings in the last three years for harshly violent films like “Saw” or “Hostel” without much concern about the age of viewers.

If the new study were to find that the industry has violated or has outgrown its voluntary standards, it might kick the issue back into the political arena ahead of a presidential election. There it could trigger fresh calls for regulation, or even kill a gory source of relatively easy money.

Yet things become murkier when studios, which often attempt to block the underage from visiting their official sites for R-rated fare, deal with Bloody-disgusting.com, Arrow in the Head (joblo.com/arrow), Fangoria.com, or any of another dozen such Web sites. Hollywood companies commonly buy advertising on such sites. Perhaps more effectively, they also open the doors for set visits, early viewings, promotional contests and anything that will attract fans.

The operators of several such sites said they had no way of knowing how many of their visitors were under 17, but believed the numbers were substantial.

In its 2004 report, the Federal Trade Commission said that in 36% of their attempts, its underage “mystery shoppers” were able to buy a movie ticket without an age check in theaters, down somewhat from about half in 2000. Meanwhile 81% of the young buyers obtained R-rated DVDs without a check.

Bracing for the next report, the National Association of Theater Owners last fall provided the commission with a detailed description of its efforts to keep the unaccompanied young out of violent fare. But at the same time, the theater owners strongly criticized the studios’ home entertainment divisions for promoting versions of some of the same movies on DVD as being unrated and uncensored.

 

21st March    Captivating Publicity...
 


Captivity postersContributing to the hype for Captivity

From Stuff see full article

In the wake of a public outcry against Los Angeles billboards and New York taxicab tops advertising the upcoming movie Captivity with images of the abduction, torture and death of a young woman, the film's producer said it will take down the offending ads.

After Dark Films, its theatrical distribution partner Lionsgate Films and the Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA) received phone calls objecting to posters.

The billboards, first posted March 13, feature four frames with captions above each one:

  • Abduction shows Cuthbert with a gloved hand over her face
  • Confinement features the actress behind a chain-link fence with a bloody finger poking through
  • Torture depicts Cuthbert's face, covered in white gauze, with tubes shoved up her nose
  • Termination shows her with her head thrown back, seemingly dead.

After Dark said the posting of the billboards was an accident. CEO Courtney Solomon said the wrong files were sent to the printer, who then passed them on to the billboard company without approval from any executives at After Dark.

Sources close to the MPAA said the organisation had not approved the four-frame ad for Captivity, and the posting of the ad was in clear defiance of MPAA rules and regulations.

Solomon added that the images on the billboard are not an accurate representation of the film, which stars Cuthbert as a woman who awakens to find herself being held in a cellar. This movie is certainly a horror movie and it's about abduction, but it's also about female empowerment, Solomon said.

We reshot the ending so the main character ends up in as much of a positive situation as the situation could allow. There is no rape or nudity in it, though it should be an R-rated movie. For the audience it's made for, it's satisfying to that audience. I'm sure that's not the same audience that's complaining about the billboards.


30th March    Update: Captivity De-Prioritised...
 


Captivity postersPunished by the MPAA

From UPI

The MPAA suspended for one month the rating on the film, Captivity, because of its graphic publicity campaign.

The MPAA's action was in response to the ad display of a woman's torture and death in Los Angeles and New York, which the MPAA disapproved as inappropriate for general public viewing.

The production company and its distributors will be required to clear promotional materials, as well as locations and venues of ad buys, for the film, the MPAA said. This is the first time this sanction has been imposed.

The sanctions in this case are severe because this was an unacceptable and flagrant violation of MPAA rules and procedures, said Marilyn Gordon, Senior Vice President of Advertising.

Once Captivity becomes eligible for rating consideration May 1, it will not be given priority scheduling.

 

27th March   Suicidal Publicity...
 

   
Wristcutters A Love Story posterContributing to the hype for Wristcutters

From CNN see full article

Suicide prevention groups are dead set against the proposed ad campaign for the comedy Wristcutters: A Love Story, which plans to bill itself with posters showing people killing themselves.

The images will depict people jumping off a bridge, electrocuting and hanging themselves. The acclaimed film follows a group of people that have committed suicide as they take a road trip through purgatory.

You don't see people making fun of other causes of death, but you see it with suicide and mental illness, said Robert Gebbia, executive director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

But Courtney Solomon, co-owner of After Dark Films, said the posters will be displayed as traffic-style stop or yield signs with a bar and circle over the illustrations, along with hearts to reference the film's romantic story line. He said the campaign may change before its mid-July rollout.

The movie takes place in purgatory, and its message is that love is better than suicide, Solomon said, adding that the film may even help prevent suicide.

Update: BBFC View

8th June 2008, See decision from the BBFC

BBFC logoWRISTCUTTERS – A LOVE STORY is a fantasy drama about a young man who kills himself and then finds himself in a form of limbo occupied by other suicide victims. The film was classified ‘15’ for suicide theme and strong language.

Suicide is one of the main themes of the work. However, the film's depiction of the afterlife is clearly fantastical, unreal and aversive (suicide victims are seen to end up undertaking mundane jobs and are unable to smile). Furthermore, the film makes it clear that suicide is not an easy way out of life's problems and stresses both what a person loses through suicide and the pain that such action can cause to friends and family. Although the film's treatment of suicide is at times comic, suicide is not condoned or trivialised and this balanced approach to a difficult theme was considered appropriate at '15' where 'No theme is prohibited, provided the treatment is appropriate to 15 year olds'.

Inevitably, the film includes a number of scenes of people about to take their own lives or having already done so. While some moments depict limited bloody aftermath (including sight of a sink full of blood), none of the suicides are shown in any great detail and do not offer any informative detail about how to commit suicide that wouldn’t already be known to the average viewer. This is in line with the BBFC Guidelines at ‘15’ which state that ‘dangerous techniques (eg, hanging, suicide and self-harming) should not dwell on imitable detail’.

The film contains several uses of strong language, amidst several uses of more moderate language. BBFC Guidelines at '12A' state that 'The use of strong language (eg 'fuck') must be infrequent' whereas the '15' Guidelines permit 'frequent use of strong language'.

The film also contains some moderate sex references, one brief moment of breast nudity and some discussion and implied use of hard drugs.

 

23rd March   COPA Overturned...
 

   
Keep your kids safe on the internetInternet world protected from unconstitutional law

From the BBC see full article

A US federal judge has overturned a law designed to protect children from viewing internet pornography, saying it violated the right of free speech.

The law made it illegal for websites to provide children access to "harmful" material, but it was never enforced.

Judge Lowell Reed of Philadelphia said other means of protection, such as software filters, were more effective.

Judge Reed said that while he sympathised with the need to protect minors, the 1998 Child Online Protection Act was problematic. It is not reasonable for the government to expect all parents to shoulder the burden to cut off every possible source of adult content for their children: I may not turn a blind eye to the law... to protect this nation's youth by upholding a flawed statute, especially when a more effective and less restrictive alternative is readily available.

Conceptually, age verification is a very good thing, but no one has come up with a good way to do it yet—and that's where everyone's focus should be: trying to come with a good, viable method for that type of system, said First Amendment attorney Robert S. Apgood. Unfortunately, age verification seems to get all of its focus on the adult industry, and that only accounts for 1 percent of the Internet. Cooperation of government agencies will give us a vehicle to accomplish these goals together, but unfortunately, that just is not happening right now.

The act was challenged by civil liberties groups and sexual health and other websites, including the online magazine salon.com, which claimed it was too restrictive and unconstitutional.

The legislation would have fined commercial websites up to $50,000 and sentenced offenders to up to six months in prison.

This law is not really aimed at commercial pornography, but really reaches far beyond that to a broad range of valuable content, John Morris, of the Center for Democracy and Technology, told reporters.

The law was never enforced because it was immediately challenged when it was passed and subject to a temporary injunction in 2004 on the grounds that it was likely to be struck down.

Both supporters and detractors of the law predicted the ruling will be appealed or that Congress will pass new legislation.

 

23rd March   Update: Overtaxed...
 

   
Tennessee sealTennessee porn tax on hold

From WMC TV

A Tennessee senator has withdrawn for now a bill to cut the sales tax on food by imposing a hefty levy on pornography.

Senator Dewayne Bunch said he wants to become more familiar with the measure before working it through Senate committees.

Under the original plan, there would be a 25% tax on adult video stores, escort services, adult movie rental and pay-per-view subscriptions and on magazines, books and other adult materials.

The measure would also charge "adult cabaret" performers an annual $400 occupational privilege tax.

 

22nd March    R Transformed to PG-13...
 


Transformers posterContributing to the hype for Transformers

From SciFi.com

Shia LaBeouf, who stars in Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers movie, told SCI FI Wire that executive producer Steven Spielberg had to appeal a decision by the Motion Picture Association of America to give the film a dreaded R rating. Spielberg fought back and got the PG-13, LaBeouf said in an interview. It's just because of the intensity. There are not a lot of breathers. It's like whoosh!

It's not clear if Bay, the action director cut anything to get the lower rating. LaBeouf said that an early cut of the film earned an R rating simply because it was so suspenseful.

Update: 12A

Passed uncut at 12A by the BBFC

Update: Oops Misquote

Transformers was never a R rating. Shia LaBeouf later admitted that he got mixed up between 2 movies he is in, Transformers, and Disturbia which was reduced on appeal from R to PG13 (and has always been a 15 in the UK)

 

19th March    Censorship Grind...
 


Grindhouse posterContributing to the hype for Grindhouse

From Monsters & Critics

The MPAA may have issues with the rating of Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's cinematic tribute to the graphic, nudity-filled flicks that once screened in the gnarly movie palaces of every major city.

The Weinstein Company is releasing the picture April 6th. But, some of it is so graphic and outrageous for a major Hollywood studio, there's no question it's headed for an NC-17 without big cuts, says a Page Six insider, who got to see an early screening of the film.

Grindhouse is two movies combined, one by Tarantino, the other by Rodriguez - with an intermission between them.

During the break, phoney trailers will be shown with campy titles like Werewolf Women of the SS, directed by Rob Zombie: In one scene, a cute, topless girl is roughly tied down on a table by evil female Nazi experimenters who begin draining her blood and, as she screams in agony, they brand her like livestock with a coal-hot steel swastika. And every girl in the Nazi concentration camp is topless.

Page Six reports: Some cuts definitely will have to be made. There's no question, said their studio insider.

Update: Grinding Out an R

The film has now been R rated, and as yet, there is no suggestion that cuts were actually required.

 

18th March    Florida Argument Not Rated...
 


Florida sealJudge orders return of DVDs seized on basis of no rating symbol

From AVN

After a recent court victory, Florida authorities were forced to return thousands of adult DVDs confiscated from a Sumter County X-Mart Supercenter.

Sumter County sheriffs raided the adult store about a year ago, confiscating almost the entire inventory of movies, 22,500 titles in all.

Authorities confiscated the material on the claim that all movies must display an official rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) on the packaging. However, a Sumter County judge ordered the DVDs be returned to X-Mart owner Evgueni Souliaguine, ruling that the statute had "many 'vagueness' problems."

The judge added: The title of such movies, as well as the pictures on the DVD’s cover, probably do more to put the public on notice of the DVDs content than does any rating system. Moreover, this Court speculates that any patron of X-Mart or similar stores would be fully aware of the content of the DVD or videos sold in such stores and that a labeling of Not Rated or NR would be meaningless.

Sheriff's investigators told reporters while it is unlikely they will use that statute again, they will still monitor X-Mart to make sure the store is not violating any other state obscenity laws.

 

18th March    Attorneys Sacked...
 


Alberto GonzalesAs long as we're cleaning up pornography, everything else will fall into place

From AVN

The United States has been rocked for the past couple of weeks over the firing of seven U.S. Attorneys (USAs) from their districts around the country, but according to the New York Times, at least two of those firings were apparently due to the USAs' failure to get on board the administration's anti-pornography train.

In rating the prosecutors, Mr. Sampson [Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff] factored in whether they 'exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney general'.

Paul K. Charlton in Arizona and Daniel K. Bogden in Nevada, were faulted as being 'unwilling to take good cases we have presented to them, according to another e-mail message to Mr. Sampson, referring to pornography prosecutions.

It is therefore not far-fetched to think that the federal indictments obtained in Arizona last May against 5-Star Distribution and JM Productions, for materials sent by 5-Star to federal agents in Virginia, were yet another attempt to pander to the administration theocon supporters.

I think it certainly plays to their religious base, opined prominent First Amendment attorney Luke Lirot: because unfortunately, people of that ilk, as long as the government's fighting pornography, everything else in the world is rosy, which is just an indication of how truly misguided those people actually are. 'As long as we're cleaning up pornography, everything else will fall into place', and that's just insane. It's a waste of resources and it has absolutely no beneficial impact on any aspect of our society.

Some have voiced doubt about the Bush administration's dedication to prosecuting adult business owners; the firing of two U.S. Attorneys because they would not go along with the government's anti-porn agenda should put an end to such doubts.

 

15th March    Waiting for a Better Version...
 


Hills Have Eyes Unrated DVD coverCinemas whinge about unrated DVDs

From Delaware Online

The The National Association of Theatre Owners called on studios to stop releasing uncensored and unrated DVDs.

The comments, made by association president John Fithian marked the latest split between the people who make movies and the people who show them.

The association, which represents operators of more than 29,000 screens, has criticized studios before for releasing too few family films, too many R-rated movies and for allowing the window between when a movie is released in theaters and when it hits video shelves to get too small.

Some popular DVD titles, particularly R-rated films such as American Pie and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, offer unrated discs that include scenes not seen in theaters.

The marketing campaigns say 'unrated' and 'uncensored,' Fithian says. But what the studio is really saying, Fithian maintains, is: 'Kids, don't go see the rated movie in cinemas. Come get the real stuff here.' It's bad for the ratings system and it's bad for the cinema business.

 

14th March    Contempt of US Justice...
 


CPJ logoJournalist in jail for refusing to hand over protest video

From CPJ

The Committee to Protect Journalists is disappointed that a freelance video blogger will remain in jail after a court-appointed arbitrator was unable to mediate a settlement that could have led to the journalist’s release. Joshua Wolf has spent 198 days in jail, the longest incarceration of a journalist in U.S. history, for refusing to provide the court with a videotape of a 2005 protest.

Wolf’s tape documents clashes between demonstrators and San Francisco police during a June 2005 protest by anarchists over a Group of 8 economic conference. One police officer was injured, and some protestors allegedly tried to set a police cruiser on fire. A federal grand jury is investigating the alleged crimes. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup held Wolf in contempt of court and ordered him jailed on August 1. Wolf was briefly released on bail pending appeal but was ordered back to jail in September.

Last month, a federal judge appointed U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero to arbitrate the dispute. Wolf’s attorney, Martin Garbus, had asked the judge to consider privately viewing the videotape to determine whether the contempt charges against Wolf could be dismissed.

Spero said in a court filing that four hours of negotiations had failed to reach a settlement. Wolf could remain in jail until July when the grand jury’s term expires.

 

11th March    Adult Films Not Allowed...
 


Exercise Responsibility posterSo just rename adult films as R rated and let the kids watch them anyway

From Variety

MPAA chairman-CEO Dan Glickman has been working to fine-tune the movie-ratings system. But this week at ShoWest, he will face his biggest hurdle yet: trying to make NC-17 respectable.

The awkwardly named rating, which originated in 1990, has become synonymous with tainted goods.

Parents have been pressuring Glickman to find a solution to the dilemma that the R rating is too broad, encompassing everything from a few swear words or brief flashes of nudity to repeated scenes of stomach-churning mutilation and disembowelments.

The biggest complaint is that, with parental permission, children and teens are allowed to see R's, and parents think the definition of R is too wide-ranging to guide them. The goal is to find a category for some films that are now informally called "hard R's" -- i.e., content so graphic that no one under the age of 17 should be allowed to see it at all in theaters. The new generation of horror pics, eg, Saw and Hostel are pushing the limits of the "hard R" category.

Because of the realities of the marketplace, one idea that has been floated is to create a disclaimer for R-rated pics, saying it isn't appropriate for children, period. And there's been talk in the past of creating a rating between PG-13 and R.

The major studios have released only 19 films rated NC-17. The highest grossing was MGM's 1995 Showgirls. Studios say some exhibitors won't book NC-17 films, and some daily newspapers refuse to carry ads for such pics. (An unrated film, in contrast, is considered on a case-by-case basis.) Blockbuster, too, refuses to carry DVDs rated NC-17.


16th March    Update: Family Friendly Pretence...
 


Exercise Responsibility posterStronger warning about kids viewing R rated movies

Based on an article from Cinema Blend see full article

The MPAA are adding a new advisory on to the R-rating which says, Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.

A poster headed Attention Parents: Exercise Responsibility suggests for R rated films that parents should: Think before taking your kids.

 Though the R-rating restricts anyone from under 17 from entering alone, it allows any child of any age in as long as they have a parent with them.

 

7th March    Criminal Fines for Obscenity...
 


Arkansas state sealArkansas to hike their level of fines

Based on an article from X Biz

With little debate and scant opposition, Arkansas lawmakers passed HB 1569, a measure that would increase the maximum fine for obscenity to $250,000.

Under the current law, Arkansas imposes a maximum fine of $15,000 for obscenity. But Rep. Shirley Walters, who introduced the bill, said the current penalty doesn’t go far enough to deter those who seek to profit from the sale of obscene material: There are several places here in Arkansas where these businesses are owned by out-of-state corporations and a $15,000 fine would be just a slap on the wrist. This would allow a judge or jury to access up to $250,000 for a felony obscenity charge.

Adult entertainment attorney Larry Walters told XBIZ a $250,000 fine is beyond what most states and the federal system provide for, adding that it may prove to be unconstitutional: There's this idea that people in adult entertainment make so much money, that the fines need to be huge. That's not always the case. States pass these laws looking to catch the big fish, but often they ensnare the little guy.

The bill does not speak to jail time for those convicted of obscenity in the state. The bill goes to the state Senate for approval.

 

3rd March    Age Old Repression...
 


Missouri sealMissouri nutter wants age limit set to 21 for adult entertainment

Based on an article from X Biz

A Missouri nutter is sponsoring a new bill that would regulate adult businesses’ hours of operation, impose zoning restrictions and raise the age limit of patrons and employees from 18 to 21.

The bill would make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to enter an adult bookstore, cabaret or video store unless he or she is making a delivery or repair.

It would also require adult stores to operate from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and remain closed Sundays and state holidays. Scott says Bartle’s office would prefer to treat adult-oriented stores like mainstream businesses.

We would like to invite tourists here, Scott said. We have made a lot of efforts to promote Missouri as a family-friendly state.

Bartle has sponsored several bills seeking to repress adult businesses in the past.

 

27th February    Chipping Away at Freedom...
 


Chippendales posterTexas police raid a Chippendales show

From abc13.com

Texas Police arrested eight Chippendales dancers and three others during the first of three sold out performances accusing them of violating the Lubbock's adult entertainment ordinance.

Officers raided Jake's Sports Cafe about 30 minutes after the show started and the venue was closed. They arrested the venue's manager, the show's promoter and the dancers' manager along with the dancers in front of a disgruntled crowd of women.

Shortly after, several hundred women began chanting, Bring them back, bring them back and the City Council sucks, the City Council sucks.

Authorities say the dancers violated a city ordinance which bars contact between entertainers and patrons. Lt. Greg Stevens of the Lubbock Police said the dancers were simulating sexual positions with audience members.

Comparatively, it's a classy production, said Greg Jackson, Jake's Sports Cafe booking agent, adding that Chippendale dancers do not take off all their clothes.

 

26th February    Zones of Repression...
 


Virginia SealSex industry restrictions in Virginia

From AVN

A proposed sex shop ordinance is on the agenda as residents of King George County can comment on a proposal that would apply tougher laws to adult businesses.

The changes would cap operations for sexually oriented businesses at 12 hours a day and 72 hours per week. Supervisors also increased the distance between shops and residential properties from 2,000 feet to just under a mile. Additionally, with the new ordinance, store owners would have to locate in industrial zones and would need a special exception permit from the board before opening.

The ordinance would apply to nightclubs, movie theaters, bookstores, video stores, modeling studios and strip clubs.

Some residents have called for an outright ban on adult businesses, but the county attorney has warned supervisors that such tactics could leave King George open to a First Amendment lawsuit.

 

1st  February  Mayor Made to Feel a Right C-Word ...
 

   
The N Word DVD coverMayor drops plans to ban the N-Word

From Gamasutra

After facing intense opposition against a proposed ordinance that would have outlawed the use of the "nigger" in his town, Brazoria Mayor Ken Corley announced that he would drop the proposal altogether.

Corley's decision brought applause from most of the 200 people who gathered in the middle of Main Street to discuss the issue.

While almost all speakers said they condemned the use of any racial epithets, most said the Brazoria County town of 2,800 has few racial problems, and the proposed ordinance would cause more problems than it would cure.

A violation would have been a Class C misdemeanor, the lowest category of offense, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

David Hudson, an attorney with the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, said the proposal clearly would have violated the First Amendment.


1st March  Update: Blacklisted...
 

   
The N Word DVD coverNew York bans the use of the word 'nigger'

From New Zealand Herald

New York City symbolically banned use of the word 'nigger' today, the latest step in a campaign that hopes to expunge the  racial slur from hip hop music and television.

The City Council unanimously declared a moratorium that carries no penalty but aims to stop youth from casually using the word, considered by most Americans to be the most offensive in the English language.

The New York City measure follows similar resolutions this month by the New York state assembly and state senate, and supporters of the ban are taking their campaign to The Recording Academy, asking it not to nominate musicians for Grammy awards if they use the word in their lyrics.

Many rap artists and young New Yorkers toss the word around as a term of endearment or as a substitute for black, angering some black leaders who consider those who use it as ignorant of the word's hate-filled history in slavery and segregation.

Councilman Leroy Comrie, a sponsor of the moratorium, said the campaign against the word has gained strength since comedian Michael Richards spewed it in a racially charged tirade in Los Angeles.

Comrie also asked TV network Black Entertainment Television to stop using the word in its shows.

A Grammy spokesman said he doubted the academy's 11,000 voting members would support any measure that might censor artists: They are not going to be supportive of something that excludes someone simply because they are using a word that is offensive, said Ron Roecker, vice president of communication for the Recording Academy.

 

 

19th February    Playing Games with Hidden Content...
 


ESRB logoLaw proposal to ensure that censors see all of a game's content

Has anybody considered the possibility of allowing plug-ins of add-on content that is simply not written yet.

From CNET News

A US Senate Republican has renewed his push to slap new regulations on the video and computer game industry, including a ban on "deceptive" labels by ratings outfits.

Senator Sam Brownback reintroduced the Truth in Video Game Rating Act, first proposed last September. It calls for requiring video game rating organizations to play all games "in their entirety" before issuing labels and prohibiting game developers from withholding any "hidden" game content from raters. It would also punish ratings groups that "grossly mischaracterize" any game's content.

The current video game ratings system is not as accurate as it could be because reviewers do not see the full content of games and do not even play the games they rate, Brownback said.

The proposed regulations represent another reaction to a high-profile scandal surrounding the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

The bill's introduction drew opposition from the Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies for the video game industry. An ESA executive said the group believes the existing rating process is already sufficiently reliable and "remarkably useful" to parents.

Sen. Brownback's bill not only attempts to address problems that don't exist, but his recommendations are unworkable and will not help consumers, Carolyn Rauch, a senior vice president at ESA, said: For instance, how does one play a game in its 'entirety' when a game has no defined end?

A representative for the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) describes at its Web site how it goes about evaluating games. It says it requires game makers to submit answers to a "detailed questionnaire" about their products and a videotape or DVD that displays all "pertinent content," including the most extreme instances of sex, violence, language, drugs and gambling. They must also turn over pertinent content that is not playable, but will exist in the game code on the final game disc.

Brownback's bill also reflects his suspicion that those engaged in the rating process have conflicts of interest. It proposes directing the Government Accountability Office to issue a report on the effectiveness of the ESRB's rating system, with particular attention to whether the process would be better served if developed and administered by persons or entities with no financial interest in the video and computer game industry.

 

18th February    Tax Us...
 


Texas sealTexas nutters eye adult industry for extra revenue

Based on an article from X Biz

Two Texas lawmakers have introduced separate pieces of legislation that would tax adult-oriented businesses in order to raise funds supposedly for victims of sex crimes.

A bill drafted by Rep. Ellen Cohen would add a $5 cover charge to all strip clubs throughout the state. If passed, Cohen’s bill would raise approximately $40 million in revenue per year for the state. However, the state Legislature would have the right to spend as it sees fit any amount raised in excess of $12 million.

A similar bill proposed by Sen. Royce West would put the onus on the businesses. His bill would call for a $5,000 annual registration fee for any adult-oriented business. West said the opening of an adult mega-store near his office inspired his bill. His bill also would require adult businesses to notify local officials of their intent to open a store or club at least 60 days prior to arriving in a community. West said he also was considering an additional sales tax to items sold or rented at adult video stores.

Both bills call for the projected revenue streams to go toward state-sponsored anti-sex-crime initiatives.

According to adult entertainment industry leaders in Texas, attempts by lawmakers to link sex crimes with sexually oriented businesses is unfair. To say there’s a link between sexual assault and gentlemen's clubs is ludicrous, said Angelina Spencer, the executive director for the Association of Club Executives. These taxes are a ruse to burden the club owner because somebody finds the business morally reprehensible. There is no evidence that links an increase in sexual assaults among women to adult entertainment clubs.

 

17th February    HooHaa...
 


Vagina Monlogues DVD coverThe Vagina Monologues renamed in sensitive Florida

From the BBC

The stage play, The Vagina Monologues, has been renamed at a theatre in Florida after a complaint about the title. Each monologue somehow relates to the vagina, through themes including sex, rape, birth and mutilation.

It will be known as The Hoohaa Monologues, a child slang word for the female organ, after a woman in Atlantic Beach complained.

Bryce Pfanenstiel from The Atlantic Theatre said that the woman said she was "offended" when her niece asked her what a vagina was.

The play's director is said not to be happy about the change. The Vagina Monologues is being staged by a group of law school students who plan to donate all the proceeds to charity.

 

16th February    Dildos in Alabama...
 


DildosSex toys remain illegal to sell in Alabama

From X Biz

In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an Alabama statute banning the commercial distribution of sex toys, saying that there is no fundamental right to privacy raised by the plaintiff’s case against the law.

According to the statute, it is unlawful for any person to knowingly distribute any obscene material or any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.

In 1998, the Alabama chapter of the ACLU brought suit on behalf of several plaintiffs — chief among them adult toy retailer Sherri Williams — seeking to enjoin the statute. The recent ruling by the 11th Circuit marks the third trip through the appellate process for the case.

In his opinion affirming the Alabama District Court’s ruling, Judge Charles Wilson concluded that the state has a legitimate rational basis for the challenged legislation despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision — Lawrence vs. Texas which overruled anti-sodomy laws across the country.

Adult entertainment industry attorney Reed Lee said that the third decision by the 11th Circuit looks to be the last word on the case from that court. But he said the plaintiffs are likely to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Whether the U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear the case is unclear. But Lee said, if the Court does not take the case, it says nothing about the merits of the law in question. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in a Texas case banning the distribution of “obscene sex toys.”

 

23rd January   Fighting for a Job...
 

   
FCC logo
FCC angling to regulate violent TV content

From Broadcast Newsroom

The FCC is readying a report that could set the agenda for US TV censorship. FCC sources confirm that the Media Bureau has circulated a Media Bureau TV violence report among the commissioners for their comment.

Media violence is an issue that surfaces periodically in Washington. Frequent media violence critic Senator Jay Rockefeller isn't waiting for the report, or for the courts: Obviously, the preference would be to have the industry police itself when it comes to excessive violence. However, if they can't or won't do it, then Congress must step in and address this growing societal problem One of the most basic steps we can take is to give the FCC authority to regulate violence.

A source confirms that Rockefeller will re-introduce a bill giving the FCC the authority to regulate violence as it does indecency He also expects the committee to hold hearings on TV violence.

The FCC report is the product of a more than two-year-old inquiry prompted by, among others, the now-chairs of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Telecommunications subcommittee.

Among the issues the report addresses are the negative effects on kids caused by cumulative viewing, the limits on the FCC's power to regulate violence, and what the definition of "harmful" TV violence is. The report is said to suggest there are constitutional hurdles to regulating violence, but not insurmountable ones if Congress wants to give the FCC the power, and Rockefeller want to do just that.

 

18th February   Update: Fighting for Regulation...
 

   
FCC logo
FCC closing in on regulation of violent TV programming

Based on an article from CNN

A draft report being circulated at the Federal Communications Commission says Congress could craft a law that would let the agency regulate violent programming much like it regulates sexual content and profanity, by barring it from being aired during hours when children may be watching, for example.

In general, what the commission's report says is that there is strong evidence that shows violent media can have an impact on children's behavior and there are some things that can be done about it, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said.

The report also suggests that cable and satellite TV could be subjected to an "a la carte" regime that would let viewers choose their channels, a measure long supported by Martin: We can't just deal with the three or four broadcast channels, we have to be looking at what's on cable as well.

The report cites studies that suggest violent programming can lead to short-term aggressive behavior in children, according to an agency source who described the report.

The recommendations are sure to alarm executives in the broadcast and cable industries, members of the creative community and First Amendment advocates. Broadcasters are expected to object strenuously to any anti-violence regulatory regime, but have been skittish in going on the record.

 

19th January   Learning about Nasty Law ...
 

   
Utah CapitolViewing porn in schools to be a crime

From X Biz see full article

Utah students who view porn at school not only could be suspended or expelled, but also charged with a misdemeanor according to a new proposed law.

Bud Bowman, R-Cedar City, who said there currently is no law that punishes students for viewing adult material on school grounds, is the bill’s sponsor. According to Bowman, the school leaders he spoke to have been supportive of the bill.

Under HB 100, viewing adult material on school-owned computers would be a class B misdemeanor, which can include penalties of up to six months in jail and hefty fines. Students in violation of this proposed policy would be turned over to local juvenile authorities.

A spokesman for the Salt Lake City School District said his district uses filters that block adult entertainment websites, along with many blogs and chat rooms.

We do a good job at keeping students away from [porn], but anything that can help encourage kids to stay away from that, especially in an education setting — we would be supportive of that, Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen said.


17th February  Update: Learning about Nutter Politicians...
 

   
Utah CapitolCriminalising porn viewing in Utah schools advances

From Desert News

Utah Youngsters who look at pornography on a school computer or bring pornography to school could be charged with a class B misdemeanor under a bill, HB100, passed by the House on Thursday.

Republican Representative Bud Bowman said Porn in schools is not a major problem now, but it is in society where minors and adults alike can easily find nude pictures of men and women on the Internet.

Bowman said he doesn't see school officials expelling or suspending a teenager for looking at porn once or twice on a school computer. But for those cases where it happens time and again, police and juvenile authorities want the option of charging the teen.

An adult who deals in porn in a public school can be charged with a class A misdemeanor under HB100, which now goes to the Senate. A class B misdemeanor carries a $1,000 fine and zero to six months in jail. A class A is a $2,500 fine and up to one year in jail.

 

14th February

   YouTube Claim Copyright on Censorship...

 


You Tube logoVideo featuring passages from Koran taken down

From Islamaphobia Watch
See also Nick Gisburne's website

At YouTube, you can say pretty much whatever You want, as long as it's not about Islam. If that's not true, YouTube user Nick Gisburne begs to differ after his account “his entire account“ was deleted for its "inappropriate content." What exactly did he say? Well, nothing really. He let the Koran speak for itself.

Gisburne is a self-described atheist with, at least from the one video, a deep questioning of Muslim claims about the Koran. To express his doubts about Islam being a religion of peace, Gisburne created a 10-minute video, entitled "Islamic Teachings" that was nothing but violent quotations taken from the Koran instructing followers to kill nonbelievers and speed their way to Hell where Allah will torture them forever.

It would seem quoting the holy book in a sort of testament against itself was over the line for someone working at Google-owned YouTube. Not only was the video deleted without any type of warning to the uploader, but the uploader's account was also deleted with only the explanation (or accusation) of submitting inappropriate content, a category usually reserved for nudity or video violence.

Nick explains about the Content of the 'banned' video on his website

The quotes I used are taken from Skeptics Annotated Quran. The Skeptic's Annotated Quran abbreviates the long, flowery language of the Quran into more legible, easily digestible form. Thus it is not strictly verbatim, but it is a valid translation. It is not a commentary, nor is it a distortion of the content of the Quran.

For example:

Qur'an text As for the Disbelievers, Whether thou warn them or thou warn them not it is all one for them; they believe not. Allah hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be an awful doom.

keptics Annotated Quran: Don't bother to warn the disbelievers. Allah has blinded them. Theirs will be an awful doom

Subsequently YouTube changed their reason for censorship from 'inappropriate content' to 'copyright violation'

You Tube contend that the removal of Nick's account was due to repeated copyright violation as they had previously removed video clips from Richard Dawkins' Root of All Evil, the scene with Ted Haggard. After that YouTube removed a video called Colbert vs Dawkins

 

12th February

  Battered by the Censor...

 


TMNT posterTeenage Mutant ninja Turtles take a pounding

From Canmag see full article

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are funny action heroes, but they’re still martial arts badasses. They have to take out the bad guys, and that requires violence. Too bad the ratings board won’t allow the best parts of their fights in the new TMNT film.

The MPAA set a mandate early on that nunchucks to the head will never pass a PG rating. Director Kevin Munroe said: They still use their weapons, it’s just you’ve got to kinda cut around it

Perhaps it’s best for the international marketability of the film. Nunchucks are absolutely illegal in the UK, said producer Thom Gray.
You can't even show them being whipped around. You could show them in a belt but you can't show 'em [in use]. And the throwing stars are totally illegal. You get into Germany and Scandanavia and they really say, 'No way, that has to come out.'

It's not going to be that apparent in the fights because there's so much going on and your eyes are not even going to see it. But clearly we were told up front, don't whack anybody over the head with a nunchuck because it's going to come out.

TMNT opens to US theatres on March 23rd, 2007.

 

11th February

  Snicker Smacker...

 


Mars advertAdvert featuring accidental male kiss withdrawn

From Christian Today see full article

A Snickers commercial that aired during the Super Bowl and featured two car mechanics accidentally kissing has been immediately withdrawn following complaints from several gay rights organisations that labelled it as “homophobic.”

Mars Inc. also erased all related content on their website in response to the criticism. The company apologised for the infraction in a public statement, saying the commercial was intended to be funny, not offensive.

In the commercial, two auto mechanics are seen to be biting into a Snickers bar, each from either end. As a result, the two unintentionally kiss each other and become instantly uncomfortable.

Pro-homosexual organisations took offence to the commercial when later the two men begin tearing hair from their own chests so they could appear more “manly.” The characters’ reactions were viewed as demeaning.

The Snickers website also featured alternate endings to the commercial which viewers could vote on. One depicts a man grabbing a wrench to strike his coworker, who then responds by placing the other man’s head under the hood and slamming it shut.

I don't know what kind of mind-set it takes to think it's okay to slug another guy because of a mistaken kiss, said Neil G. Giuliano, president of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation: It's just unacceptable.

 

10th February

 Extreme Argument...

 

   
Extreme AppealExtreme Associates challenge the Miller test

From AVN

With the Extreme Associates obscenity trial still months away, the company's defense team has filed another motion to dismiss the indictments against Extreme and its co-owners Rob Black and Lizzy Borden. This time they are challenging whether the all-too-familiar Miller test for obscenity can be applied to the World Wide Web.

Their attorneys have asked Judge Gary Lancaster, whose brilliant analysis in granting an earlier Motion to Dismiss was later reversed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, to consider new arguments for dismissal; among them:

• That the federal obscenity statutes are unconstitutional;

• That the Miller test's requirement that the charged material be "taken as a whole" is impossible to accomplish in the context of the World Wide Web;

• That the "community standards" prong of the Miller test used in determining whether a particular work is obscene cannot be applied to an online "community";

• That obscenity code Sections 1461 ("Mailing obscene or crime-inciting matter"), 1462 ("Importation or transportation of obscene matters") and 1465 ("Transportation of obscene matters for sale or distribution") are impermissibly overbroad;

• That the digital video clips charged do not fall within the range of tangible material eligible for prosecution under two sections of the obscenity law.

Should the Court decide that the above points are insufficient for a dismissal of the entire indictment, the motion also asks that the Court clarify certain points of law before the case moves forward:

• That the "material to be taken as a whole" regarding the charged video clips refers to the entire Extreme Associates website;

• That the applicable "community" within which the charges are to be considered, for the purposes of the Miller test, is the entire World Wide Web; and,

• In the alternative, if the Court rules that the "community" has to be a geographic area, that that community should be the Central District of California, where Extreme's headquarters are located, rather than the Western District of Pennsylvania, where the clips were originally viewed by postal inspectors.

 

8th February

 Game for a Fight...

 

   
Gamecock magazineAmazon refuse to ban cock fighting magazines

From Seattle pi

Amazon.com said it would keep selling two magazines about cockfighting, despite renewed threats of a lawsuit from the Humane Society of the United States.

But the online retailer said it would again remove videos that depict dogfights, months after the issue was originally raised by Humane Society officials.

The Humane Society said it plans to formally file a lawsuit Thursday morning in District of Columbia Superior Court, accusing Amazon.com of operating an illegal: animal-fighting paraphernalia sale and distribution scheme.

Humane Society officials originally threatened to sue Amazon.com last July, saying the online retailer was violating the federal Animal Welfare Act by offering The Feathered Warrior and The Gamecock, two cockfighting magazines.

Seattle-based Amazon.com, however, said Wednesday the magazines are legal and would continue to be sold on its Web site. Refusing to sell books or magazines simply because their messages may offend is censorship, spokeswoman Patty Smith said: The customer is the best judge of what is and isn't appropriate for their reading habits.

The Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society maintained the cockfighting magazines and the dogfighting videos violate federal animal cruelty laws, and said its lawsuit would continue. Cockfighting is legal only in Louisiana and New Mexico.

Last June, Amazon.com was among the companies that pledged to remove a DVD, Hood Fights 2,  from its Web site after complaints that the video showed scenes of dogs fighting, along with street fights between people.

That case was different than the cockfighting magazines, Smith said, because the video depicted actual violence.

 

31st  January   3 Games to Nil...
 

   
Utah CapitolUtah games censorship bill on hold again

From Gamasutra

The state House committee has voted to hold the infamous “games as porn” bill for a third time, following continued concerns over freedom of speech issues.

Republican Kay McIff has announced plans to draft a substitute bill to replace the now thrice defeated original.

The original bill attempted to amend an existing law preventing the sale of pornography to minors by categorizing violent video games as obscene, and has previously been approved by the Utah House of Representatives, only to stall at House level.

The Daily Herald quotes McIff as saying, I am concerned, when all the legal experts, including our own attorney general as well as the sponsor, tell us that the bill is likely to fail in a constitutional challenge. One where we cannot control the amount we spend, because we spend our side and then we are potentially obliged to spend the legal costs of the other side.

Although a large number of other states have pursued similar anti-games legislation, the Utah bill was seen as the most openly problematic with regard to the U.S. constitution – with two constitutional law experts from the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment heavily criticizing the bill in an editorial for the Salt Lake City Tribune.

 

30th January  Advertising Websites...
 

   
FCC logo
Commercial web addresses disallowed from kids' programmes

From CNET News

The Federal Communications Commission decreed that during shows geared toward children age 12 and under, cable and broadcast operators may not display addresses for Web sites that contain any links to commercial content. The rules took effect on January 2.

The entire new media landscape is one immense personalized ad targeted at kids, said Jeff Chester, director of the advocacy group Center for Digital Democracy, which has pressed the FCC to extend children's TV programming rules to the Internet.

The new rules came about because regulators were concerned that some broadcasters were using children's programming as a billboard for addresses to Web sites established solely for commercial purposes, and thus sneaking around federal law. Under the 1990 Children's Television Act, every hour of children's programming may contain only 10.5 minutes of advertising during weekends and 12 minutes on weekdays.

Under the new rules addresses for sites with commercial content can still be displayed during advertising so long as they're against the networks' allotted advertising minutes and "clearly separated" from show content.

The rules also permit the display of addresses for "noncommercial" Web sites during actual show broadcasts. Sites fit that bill if they offer a substantial amount of bona fide program-related or other noncommercial content, aren't primarily intended for commercial purposes, clearly label commercial content, and don't link directly to e-commerce sites or other pages with commercial material.

 

30th January  Hounded by Nutters...
 


Hounddog posterNutters call for investigation into filming of Hounddog

Based on an article from the BBC

Twelve-year-old actress Dakota Fanning is the focus of nutters over a new movie, Hounddog,  that depicts her being raped by a teenage boy.

US religious groups are calling for a boycott, saying Fanning's appearance in the film is tantamount to child abuse.

Director Deborah Kampmeier has defended the film, saying issues like child rape need to be discussed in public: This issue is so silenced in our society. There are a lot of women who are alone with this story.

The criticism began before the film was screened, with the New York-based Catholic League calling for a federal probe into whether child pornography laws were violated during filming.

Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, also believes the rape scene falls foul of the law.

Fanning herself played down the controversy following the film's premiere: It's not a rape movie. That's not even the point of the film. It's not really happening. It's a movie, and it's called acting. I'm not going through anything. And for me, when it's done it's done. I don't even think about it any more.

During the rape scene, only Fanning's face, neck, shoulders, hand and foot appear on screen. Much of the scene takes place in darkness, punctuated only by the sound of Fanning's screams.

Prosecutors in two states said on Jan. 26 that they found nothing illegal about a movie shot in North Carolina and screened last week at Utah’s Sundance Film Festival.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who watched the movie last week with his state’s child sexual exploitation law in hand, said his concerns didn’t materialize on the screen.

None of the things on the Internet that people were saying about it were true, Shurtleff said. Not only does it not violate the statute, I think it’s a good message for people on the subject.

The opinion is shared by the district attorneys in the two North Carolina counties where Hounddog was filmed last summer.

Rex Gore, the Brunswick County district attorney, said there was no evidence that the scene constituted “sexual activity” under North Carolina law, so child exploitation didn’t occur. Even if a film contains simulated sexual activity, Gore said, it doesn’t cross the line into obscenity as long as the film has serious artistic value or is protected speech.

That outcry led state Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, to begin work on legislation that would require any film seeking North Carolina’s 15% tax credit for television and movies to receive script approval from the state. Berger said the state should ensure its citizens aren’t subsidizing what many may consider inappropriate.

 

28th January  Drunk with Power...
 


You Tube logo
Copyright used for censorship

From Red Herring

Last Following a week’s worth of controversy about her behavior, Fox Broadcasting ordered clips of Paula Abdul swaying, appearing intoxicated, and answering questions on TV news programs in a nonsensical way taken down from YouTube this week.

The move raises questions about where the line should be drawn between copyright infringement and outright censorship. It also shows how quickly an embarrassing piece of footage can become a viral sensation now that videos can be easily uploaded to the web.

What Fox runs the risk of is using copyright law as a form of censorship, said Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner Media Service.

Any violation of what is known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is grounds for removal of videos on YouTube, a division of Mountain View, California-based search giant Google. However, there are also “fair use” laws that allow some content—such as short clips or satirical depictions of celebrities—to be aired online.

Some people would say this is an overly aggressive use of the takedown procedure [allowed in the DMCA], said James Nguyen, an attorney who specializes in entertainment and copyright law at the Los Angeles-based law firm Foley & Lardner. They’re within their rights … but most of the major TV networks don’t ask you to take down their other clips.

 

24th January  Simple and Ineffective...
 

   
Utah Capitol
Utah suggests a split into a family Internet and an adult Internet

One size fits all nonsense

Based on an article from KSL

A Utah based non-profit organisation called the CP80 Foundation has proposed that two ports should be used for websites, which currently use the single port 80. One that is acceptable to children, families, education and business, and another which is open for all other legal adult content.

The Utah legislature is considering a resolution to the US Congress, asking that US Internet governing organizations implement the plan and its enforcement. Developers of the Internet Channel Initiative, as its called, say the Internet shouldn't belong to pornographers.

Ralph Yarro, Founder, CP80 Foundation: It's for everyone and its time to make an internet that's accountable to the people its supposed to serve. Yarro says the initiative leverages the current structure of the Internet to categorize Internet content into Internet ports or channels similar to cable television channels. There would be Community Port channels for general-public content and Open Port channels for mature content, such as pornography.

Once content is categorized, Internet consumers will be able to choose what content and material is accessible in their home and office.

The House Utility and Technology Committee voted to send the resolution on to the House for its approval.

 

21st January  Tax on Porn...
 

   
Tennessee sealCalculated to remove Tennessee tax on groceries

From X Biz

State Representative Stacey Campfield said he will introduce a bill in the state legislature to impose a tax on pornography, with the revenue from the measure going toward a reduction in state sales tax for groceries.

Campfield, who said he is in the process of researching and drafting the bill, said the law would likely apply to material that minors were legally prohibited from purchasing, but it would not include R-rated movies.

Several state officials, including Gov. Phil Bredesen, said they thought the proposal would most likely be unconstitutional.

In addition to adult movies, Campfield said he was exploring the idea of expanding the proposed bill’s taxable territory by including exotic dance clubs as well.

While Campfield has not determined the size of the tax, he said the goal is to raise enough revenue to allow the repeal of a 6% state sales tax on groceries.

Dr. Stan Chervin, who serves as a senior research associate for the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, said a tax on adult entertainment wouldn’t generate enough revenue to allow lawmakers to repeal the tax on food. What's he going to do? Charge $2 million on a Playboy magazine? asked Chervin.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Tennessee, said such a tax would face legal challenges, pointing out that the proposed law seemed both impermissibly vague and that it would likely have a chilling effect on free speech.

 

20th January   Blame Space...
 

   
MySpace logo
MySpace sued on a claim of insufficient security

From the BBC

MySpace is being sued by the families of five teenage girls who it is claimed were sexually assaulted by men they met through the social networking website.

The negligence and fraud suit against the popular site was filed at a court in Los Angeles. It comes after a similar lawsuit was filed by the parents of a 14-year-old American girl last year.

Last year, MySpace increased security measures to protect its younger users. It also made it impossible for users aged 18 and above to contact 14 and 15-year-old members, unless they knew the younger person's email address.

The girls involved in the latest lawsuits were all aged between 14, the minimum age for a MySpace account, and 15. In our view, MySpace waited entirely too long to attempt to institute meaningful security measures that effectively increase the safety of their underage users, said Jason Itkin, a lawyer for one of the firms representing the families.

Hemanshu Nigam, the MySpace chief security officer, said that "ultimately, internet safety is a shared responsibility. We encourage everyone to apply common sense offline security lessons in their online experiences and engage in open family dialogue about smart web practices.

 

20th January  Blogger Relief ...
 

   
Capitol building
US backs off from requiring political bloggers to register

From CNET News

The US Senate has rejected a proposal that may have required some political bloggers to register as lobbyists or face prison time.

By a 55-43 vote, the senators approved an amendment that dropped a controversial section dictating such regulations from a massive piece of federal lobbying legislation.

The provision removed from that bill, Section 220, would have required certain people engaged in "grassroots lobbying" to register with the government or face civil and criminal penalties, including up to 10 years in prison.

Supporters of the provision had said it was meant to curb "astroturf" groups--that is, special interest groups, funded by large organizations, labor unions or corporations, that masquerade as ordinary citizens.

But a politically diverse set of advocacy groups, ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to Gun Owners of America, argued that the proposal could actually sweep up a potentially broad swath of bloggers and nonprofit groups. Requiring them to register as lobbyists would violate core freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, they said.

The bill defined grassroots lobbying activity as a person engaging in "paid efforts" to encourage the general public to communicate their own views on an issue to federal officials. That message would have to be sent to at least 500 individuals. The person would also have to spend or receive at least $25,000 related to his or her political efforts over any three-month period to trigger the registration requirements.

 

14th December  Judges Gone Wild ...
 

   
Girls Gone Wild DVD cover$1.6 million fine for minor infraction

Based on an article from the Daily Mail

From Yahoo News

The Girls Gone Wild video empire agreed to pay $1.6 million and its founder was sentenced to community service for filming drunken, 17 year old girls for their videos.

Mantra Films Inc. pleaded guilty in a case that stemmed from its use of two 17-year-olds in its DVDs and videos, which feature young women baring their breasts in public. The videos at issue were filmed on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003.

U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak ordered Mantra's founder, Joe Francis, to read aloud in court a victim impact statement from one of the women, who said she was emotionally tormented by her appearance on a Girls Gone Wild video and that the video damaged her relationship with her family.

Smoak told Francis he added the community service because it did not appear a fine would be a meaningful punishment.

Francis said his policy has always been not to film girls under 18 and that the two filmed in Panama City lied about their ages.

According to court papers, Mantra Films, based in California, admitted violating record-keeping and labeling laws.

The judge ordered Francis, his company president, general counsel and chief financial officer to each perform eight hours of community service monthly for the next 30 months.


6th January  Update: Prosecutors Wild ...
 

   
Girls Gone Wild DVD coverJudge drops many charges against Girls Gone Wild team

From The Guardian

A judge has dropped most of the charges filed against the producer of the Girls Gone Wild video series, saying the evidence did not support the allegations involving the filming of a pair of 17 year old girls at spring break.

Of the more than 40 criminal charges filed, only four felony and two misdemeanor counts remain against series creator Joe Francis and his company, Mantra Films, Inc., after two girls claimed a Girls Gone Wild cameraman videotaped them in sexual situations on Panama City Beach in 2003.

The remaining felony counts charge that Francis and the company used minors in sexual performances and conspired to use minors in sexual performances, which would carry a maximum combined prison sentence of 40 years if convicted.

In her ruling, Circuit Judge Dedee Costello said she kept those charges because prosecutors have said a photographer and a cameraman may testify at the trial. Costello gave defense attorneys until Jan. 31 to file motions to dismiss the remaining charges.

Pending in federal court is an appeal of a related ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak, who last month ordered Francis and his three top corporate officers to perform community service and ordered the company to pay a $1.6 million fine for filming the same girls. The company in December agreed to pay the fine but then filed the appeal when Smoak added the community service for the individuals.


24th January  Update: Justice Gone Wild ...
 

   
Girls Gone Wild DVD coverMaking an example of Girls Gone Wild Boss

From AVN

Girls Gone Wild mogul Joe Francis was sentenced this week to two years' probation, a $500,000 fine and 200 hours of community service for violating the federal government's 2257 record-keeping law.

The sentence is part of an ongoing case against Francis and his company Mantra Films stemming from the 2003 appearance of two 17-year-old girls in a Girls Gone Wild video shot on Florida's Panama City Beach.

Last month, a Florida judge slapped Mantra Films with a $1.6 million fine, ordering Francis and three other Mantra officers to perform eight hours of community service each month for a period of 30 months. Mantra is appealing the December verdict.

Francis told reporters that he has been unfairly targeted because: the government needs to make an example.

 

18th January  Pedantic Raids ...
 

   
FBI logoFBI raids porn producers to check record keeping

Based on an article from NBC4

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has recently stepped up raids of porn studios in the San Fernando Valley. This is supposedly to ensure that children are not being sexually exploited but is probably more to do with ensuring a repressive atmosphere pervades over the adult industry.

About a dozen porn production facilities in pornography hot spots such as Van Nuys and Chatsworth have been taken by surprise in the last three months by a barrage of federal agents at their doors.

The probes come on the heels of a May 2005 change in the regulations that require producers to take two forms of government-issued identification from performers and keep them on file indefinitely. Those records must be referred to on the labels of all videos and DVDs sold. Violations are federal felonies and can carry a prison sentence.


18th January  Update: 2257 Raids ...
 

   
FBI logoUS adult industry comply with record keeping

From AVN

A feature article in the Los Angeles Times examined the FBI's recent 2257 inspections of San Fernando Valley porn studios.

Free Speech Coalition chairman Jeffrey Douglas said: Although the public perception of porn producers often tends to be that of a wild and unseemly underworld, many of the Valley's X-rated entities are tightly-run multimillion dollar corporations. Douglas said that complying with the rules had buried X-rated producers in paperwork."

Joe Francis' Mantra Films, which produces the popular Girls Gone Wild video series, is the only company to be prosecuted thus far since changes in 2257 laws took effect in May 2005. The Times article mentioned the FBI's recent visit to the K-Beech offices in Chatsworth. K-Beech passed the inspection.

Why would I jeopardize $10 million a year to shoot an underage girl? We're not stupid, Kevin Beechum told the Times.

Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra was quoted as saying, If [porn producers'] feeling is there's nothing to worry about, then complying with the inspections shouldn't be a problem.

The FBI is being decent and fair about it, Steven Hirsch of Vivid Entertainment told the Times. But I don't think it's an issue. There's plenty of girls of age who are willing to do [porn].

 

17th January  Nutters Gone Wild ...
 

   
Girls Gone Wild DVD coverTennessee nutter proposes to ban advertising for adult products

From Tennessean.com

Tennessee TV stations and cable companies could be fined $50,000 if they air ads for obscene products under a bill Sen. Doug Jackson filed, he announced Friday.

The possibility of a fine may prevent broadcasters from airing commercials for products that are distasteful to some people but are protected by the First Amendment, says Doug Pierce, a lawyer with King and Ballow.

Ads for sexually explicit material like the popular Girls Gone Wild videos, which feature young women baring their breasts and performing other sexual acts, are what Jackson has in his crosshairs, Jackson said.

The commercials air late at night on channels typically reserved for more mature audiences, but he says kids have access to them: You never know when they're coming on. Seeing two naked girls kissing each other and bouncing in bed together, if somebody wants to come into Tennessee and argue that there's some socially redeeming value to that, I think they have a hard case to make.

Jackson said he doesn't think parents who pay for cable should have to block out channels with more mature content.

Former Williamson County district attorney Joe Baugh says that puts an undue burden on broadcasters to figure out what is obscene, which can be a tough task in a market chock full of questionable material: It may be the legislature wants to restrict the kind of advertising that Girls Gone Wild uses … but it doesn't seem to be any worse or even as bad as what you see on cable TV. It'd be like him saying you can't run The Sopranos in Tennessee.

 

17th January   Not Yet Transparent...
 

   
Not Yet Rated DVD cover
MPAA respond to criticism

Based on an article from Variety

Responding to criticism after the expose, This Film is Not Yet Rated, the MPAA are planning a series of changes, including a new admonishment to parents that certain R-rated movies aren't suitable for younger kids, period.

MPAA topper Dan Glickman told Daily Variety said that the voluntary ratings system, devised and implemented by Jack Valenti, his predecessor, is a "gem," even if it needs some polishing.

To that end, the public soon will have access to information previously unavailable. That includes:

  • For the first time, CARA will post the ratings rules on the MPAA Web site, describing the standards for each rating. The ratings and appeal processes also will be described in detail, along with a link to paperwork needed to submit a film for a rating.
  • Most members of the ratings board will remain anonymous, although CARA will describe the demographic make-up of the board, which is composed of parents. The names of the three senior raters have always been public; now, they will be posted online.
  • A filmmaker who appeals a rating can reference similar scenes in other movies, although the appeals board still will focus heavily on context.
  • CARA will formalize its rule that a member of the ratings board doesn't stay on the board after his or her children are grown.
  • CARA also will formalize its educational training system for raters.
  • When the CARA rules are implemented later this year, the MPAA will designate additional independent members to the appeals board who don't come from the MPAA fold.
  • MPAA will occasionally be able to designate additional observers from different backgrounds to the appeals board.

Update: Supporting NC-17

The Chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, Dan Glickman, has asked the executives of the Sundance Film Festival to start using the NC-17 rating for the more edgy and controversial movies in this year's festival. The rating of NC-17 was created to replace the X-rating, but it never really stuck.

This seems to be the start of a campaign to try and make the NC-17 a little more acceptable

 

14th January  Nutter Parents...
 
Parents Television Council claim an increase in US TV violence

From TV Week

Paents TV council logoA report issued today by the nutters of the Parents Television Council said TV violence since 1998 has increased in every prime time slot, with violent incidents up 45% during the 8 pm hour, 92% during the 9 pm hour and 167% during the 10 pm hour. On average, the networks show 4.41 instances of violence per hour.

Federal Communications Commission member Michael J. Copps is urging leaders of the cable and broadcast industries to convene an industry summit to discuss reining it in. Copps questioned whether former FCC chairman Newton Minow description of TV in the early 1960s as "vast wasteland" has morphed into "a vast, violent wasteland."

PTC president Tim Winter said: We are not calling for a ban on anything...BUT...We are calling for some responsibility and restraint by broadcasters.
 
The commissioner urged National Association of Broadcasters President-CEO David Rehr and National Cable and Telecommunications Association President-CEO Kyle McSlarrow to convene the summit to discuss the issue of violence and warned that if broadcasters don't step up and self police I don't think anyone will be surprised if Congress decides to step in.

 

12th January  Flagged as Gay...
 


You Tube logo
Gay and lesbian videos face flagging on YouTube

From After Ellen

Last year's documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated underscored the double standard that films with LGBT content receive when they are rated by the MPAA. Films with queer content are much more likely to receive an R rating than those with heterosexual content or with significant amounts of violence. This double standard has now crossed into the brave new world of cyberspace, specifically YouTube.

Despite being a great resource for LGBT viewers, YouTube also offers these users constant reminders that lesbians and gays are not an entirely accepted part of American society, thanks to a feature known as “flagging.” As YouTube guidelines explain, Some of the content here may offend you — if you find that it violates our Terms of Use, then click ‘Flag as Inappropriate' under the video you're watching to submit it for review by YouTube staff.

What this translates to in the anonymous world of the internet is that anybody who sees a video he or she doesn't like can “flag it” for inappropriate content. The offending clip then goes into a queue and is eventually reviewed by a YouTube staff member who makes the determination whether the video should be pulled off the site entirely, whether it should remain flagged because it contains “inappropriate content,” or whether the “flag” itself should be removed.

The problem lies with clips being flagged simply because they contain “lesbian” content, content merely depicting lesbians just being lesbians. A happy scene of two lesbian characters dreaming about raising a child and discovering they are pregnant from If These Walls Could Talk 2 is flagged. A promo for South of Nowhere in which Ashley and Spencer almost kiss is also flagged.  A search for “lesbians,” “lesbian film” or “lesbian kiss” on YouTube will undoubtedly return a flagged clip in no time.

The repeated flagging of LGBT content regardless of its level of sexual explicitness, and YouTube's tolerance of this flagging, suggests a clear bias. However, YouTube denied AfterEllen.com's repeated requests for an interview on this subject.

YouTube's marketing manager, Jenny Nielson, did provide a brief written statement in response to our queries. With regard to abusive flagging, she wrote: The fact is we don't control the content on our site. Our community decides what content rises up, and also flags content that is inappropriate. Once the content is flagged, we review the video and remove it if it violates our terms of use.

 

11th January  Mail Censor...
 


Nebraska State CapitolEmail porn facing new laws

From Nebraska StatePaper.com

A proposal offered to the Nebraska Legislature would make it a misdemeanor to e-mail pornography.

The measure would define pornography as visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct.

It carries a felony penalty if the person sending the e-mail is over 18, and knows, or ought to know, that the person receiving the e-mail is under 16.

The bill (LB142) was introduced by Senator Mike Friend of Omaha. It is part of the anticrime package sought by Attorney General Jon Bruning.

 

10th January  Googling for Collusion...
 

   
Capitol building
US bill to ensure US Internet companies don't support repression

From Axcess News

Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) said Monday that he was re-introducing legislation which aims to promote free expression and a free flow of information on the Internet by preventing U.S. companies from aiding regimes who restrict access to the Internet. Last year, Smith's bill failed to win over lawmakers.

Smith thinks he has a better shot at getting his bill passed now that Democrats control both houses of Congress, but even there, many lawmakers see Smith's approach as being too idealistic and impractical, let alone its effect on international commerce, which is already straining through the WTO's inability to bring members together in trade agreement.

American high-tech firms have produced the technology and know-how that has led to a modern-day information revolution. However, instead of working to allow everyone to benefit from these advancements, these same high-tech firms are colluding with dictators to suppress the spread of information and punish pro-democracy advocates, said Smith.

Smith says the Global Online Freedom Act of 2007 will strengthen the federal government's new strategy to promote online freedom by prohibiting U.S. Internet companies from cooperating with repressive regimes that restrict information about human rights and democracy on the Internet and use personally identifiable information to track down and punish democracy activists. The bill would make it a crime for Internet companies to turn over personal information to governments who use that information to suppress dissent.

American companies should not be working hand-in-glove with dictators. By blocking access to information and providing secret police with the technology to monitor dissidents, American IT companies are knowingly-and willingly-enabling the oppression of millions of people, Smith said in reference to companies who are complicit in helping dictators restrict free access to the Internet.

Specifically, the Global Online Freedom Act of 2007:

  • Prohibits US companies from disclosing to foreign officials of an "Internet Restricting Country" information that personally identifies a particular user except for "legitimate foreign law enforcement purpose"
  • Creates a private right of action for individuals aggrieved by the disclosure of such personal identification to file suit in any US district court
  • Prohibits US internet service providers from blocking online content of US government or US-government financed sites
  • Authorizes $50 million for a new interagency office within the State Department charged with developing and implementing a global strategy to combat state-sponsored internet jamming by repressive countries
  • Requires the new Office of Global Internet Freedom to monitor filtered terms; and to work with Internet companies and the non-profit sector to develop a voluntary code of minimum corporate standards related to Internet freedom.
  • Requires Internet companies to disclose to the new Office of Global Internet Freedom the terms they filter and the parameters they must meet in order to do business in Internet Restricting Countries
  • Requires the President to submit to Congress an annual report designating as an "Internet Restricting Country" any nation that systematically and substantially restrict internet freedom
  • Establishes civil penalties for businesses (up to $2 million) and individuals (up to $100,000) for violations of the new requirements
  • Mandates a feasibility study, by the Department of Commerce, to determine what type of restrictions and safeguards should be imposed on the export of computer equipment which could be used in an Internet Restricting Country to restrict Internet freedom.

 

8th December   Arseholes in Maine

  Santa's Butt beer bottleCensor beer labels

From Hemscott

In a complaint filed in U.S. District, Shelton Brothers accuses the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement of censorship for denying applications for labels for Santa's Butt Winter Porter and two other beers it wants to sell in Maine.

The lawsuit contends the state's action violates the First Amendment by censoring artistic expression.

The label with Santa might appeal to children, said Maine State Police Lt. Patrick Fleming. The other two labels are considered inappropriate because they show bare-breasted women.

The lawsuit was brought by the Maine Civil Liberties Union, which says the beer labels are entitled to First Amendment protection. There is no good reason for the state to censor art, even art found on a beer label, said Zachary Heiden, staff attorney for the MCLU.

In a letter to Shelton Brothers, the state denied the applications for the labels because they contained 'undignified or improper illustration.'

By law, the liquor licensing division of the Department of Public Safety reviews between 10,000 and 12,000 applications a year for beer and wine labels. The agency typically denies about a dozen a year because they contain inappropriate language or nudity, or might appeal to children, Fleming said.

6th January   Censors Butt Out

  Santa's Butt beer bottleBan on Santa's butt on beer label withdrawn

From WCSH6

A Massachusetts beer importer has been granted permission to sell a beer in Maine with a label showing Santa Claus drinking a pint of brew.

The decision to let Shelton Brothers sell Santa's Butt Winter Porter, along with two other European beers, reverses a decision last fall to deny the company's application to sell the beers in Maine.

After the denial, the Maine Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the company in federal court in Portland accusing the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement of censorship.

While welcoming the decision, owner Daniel Shelton said it's too late to sell the seasonal Santa's Butt beer because the holiday season is over. He expects the other beers, a French ale and a Belgian fruit beer that show bare-breasted women on the labels, to soon be on Maine shelves.

Update: Muzzle Award

April 2007

For denying a beer distributor’s application to sell three beers in the state because it disapproved of the artwork on the beers’ labels, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement.

 

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