US Censorship News

 2007: Oct-Dec

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31st December   

Obscene Punishment...

Sex offenders registration extended to adult obscenity
Link Here

Ohio State seal In Ohio, starting on January 2, a conviction for pandering obscenity is a registratable offense, stated prominent First Amendment attorney H. Louis Sirkin: It's a result of the Adam Walsh Act. In Ohio, they've made pandering obscenity a 15-year registratable offense.

The maximum sentence in Ohio for having been convicted of one count of "pandering obscenity" – that is, creating, advertising, selling, renting, delivering or displaying an obscene work within the state – is 12 months in prison. There's just one problem: The Adam Walsh Act has expanded the definition of "sex offense" to mean a criminal offense that has an element involving a sexual act or sexual contact with another.

Censorious officials in Ohio (and likely soon elsewhere) have taken the position that an obscenity bust is a criminal offense that has an element involving a sexual act, even if that act is only on videotape, DVD or VOD, and the Office of the Ohio Public Defender warns that under the Ohio Revised Code, "pandering obscenity" will become a "Tier 1" offense requiring registration under Ohio's Sex Offender and Registration Notification (SORN) Act.

As a Tier 1 sexual offender, the Ohio Public Defender's Office states that registration duties last 15 years for adults, 10 years for juveniles.

The irony (and injudiciousness) of being forced to spend 15 years on the Sex Offender Registry for having committed an offense that can garner an adult retailer less than one year in jail is not lost on Sirkin.

Aside from the reporting requirements, one of the biggest problems with being compelled to register as a sex offender is residency.

Why someone convicted of selling a non-child-porn obscene DVD should be forced to live at least 1,000 feet from where children go to school or day-care is unclear, and the law itself provides no rationale for it. The local sheriff is required to send notice of a registrant's address to all apartment house managers and condo owners association within 1,000 feet of that address, to any school principal, day-care center administrator and youth organization leader within the county, and to any resident who shares a common hallway with the registrant.

At this time, Ohio is the only state that AVN has been able to determine has enacted such a law, but all states must do so by July 27, 2009 or risk losing 10% of their federal law enforcement grant funds.

I think it's a serious concern and we need to get proactive about it, Sirkin warned.

 

27th December   

Comment: Violence, Sex and Perversion...

Presidential candidates on video game violence
Link Here

President Evil game Five candidates for the position of America's 44th president, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, were recently quizzed on their feelings regarding violent gaming legislation.

Specifically, the candidates were asked: To date, nearly 10 states have considered legislation to keep violent video games out of kids' hands. Would you support this type of legislation at the federal level? What other strategies would you support to keep the video game industry and other media companies from marketing and selling inappropriate content to children?

Hillary Clinton cited her Family Entertainment Protection Act which would punish retailers with, a fine of $1,000 or 100 hours of community service for the first offense and $5,000 or 500 hours of community service for each subsequent offense.

John Edwards stated that while parents must ultimately decide what games their kids play, he thoroughly supports the efforts of industry associations such as the ESRB saying, The Entertainment Software Rating Board is a good example of industry responsibility.

Similarly, media-darling Barack Obama stated that parents must be the driving force behind what children see, but that it's up to the government and gaming industry to provide comprehensive tools to aid parents.

Bill Richardson's concurred with Edwards and Obama

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Mitt Romney feels that the true issue here is a lack of morality in society. His stated goal is, to restore values so children are protected from a societal cesspool of filth, pornography, violence, sex, and perversion.

The most striking thing about the entire Q&A is the similarity presented by each candidate. Even across party lines, the similarities presented in each candidate's arguments seem almost rehearsed.

 

26th December   

Blame Game...

Mortal Kombat in the frame
Link Here

Mortal Kombat Armageddon game In what is likely to become a black eye for the video game industry, a pair of Colorado teenagers face murder charges following the tragic death of a 7-year-old girl.

Lamar Roberts, 17, and Heather Trujillo, 16, told police they were babysitting Heather’s sister, Zoe Garcia earlier this month. According to the Rocky Mountain News, the three began acting out a version of Mortal Kombat.

Roberts, apparently drunk, kicked the litte girl. Heather Trujillo told police she punched [Zoe] in the stomach, karate chopped her lower arms, punched and pinched the victim’s thighs, kicked her in the shins, slapped her stomach and buttocks and poked at the victim’s chest.

Update: Sentenced

6th July 2008

As reported by Colorado's 9news, Trujillo has received an 18-year sentence which will be suspended if she successfully completes six years in a program for young offenders. She must also testify against Roberts at his upcoming trial.

Game Politics commented: This case is a terrible tragedy. But beyond that it demonstrates the media's focus on the sensational - and perhaps untrue - Mortal Kombat aspect. What has not received nearly as much coverage is that this was a completely dysfunctional family situation, one that was well known to family service authorities in at least two states.

 

20th December   

Filmmakers Hooded...

Poster showing hooded man led by soldiers banned
Link Here

Taxi to the Dark Side ThinkFilm is preparing an appeal to the MPAA about a poster. The poster art for Taxi to the Dark Side , a documentary about the pattern of torture practice, is causing a stir due to its depiction of a hooded man being led by American soldiers.

Variety is reporting that the MPAA has officially rejected the poster, and if ThinkFilm goes forward with the marketing, they could have their "R" rating revoked. Taxi to the Dark Side is due for US release on January 11th.

An MPAA spokesman says Ads will be seen by all audiences, including children. If the advertising is not suitable for all audiences it will not be approved by the advertising administration.

Alex Gibney, the film's writer, producer, and director says, Not permitting us to use an image of a hooded man that comes from a documentary photograph is censorship, pure and simple. Intentional or not, the MPAA's disapproval of the poster is a political act, undermining legitimate criticism of the Bush administration. I agree that the image is offensive; it's also real.

 

20th December   

Texas Tits...

Breastfeeding picture banned in art show
Link Here

unrelated picture by L Jaddo A Lubbock city official has banned two drawings from an art show in a city-run facility.

The predominantly pencil-sketched images of a nearly fully clothed mother who is breast-feeding and a nude pregnant woman were banned from the Buddy Holly Center.

Vince Gonzales, president of the Lubbock chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said  that a “nurse-in,” a gathering of nursing mothers at a public place, is being planned for a date in the near future “mostly as a way of supporting Lahib Jaddo and her artwork: I think it also is a response to how breast-feeding mothers are treated in Lubbock. They have to put up with thinly veiled comments from people seated at the next table at a restaurant, and rude and inappropriate remarks from people walking by them at the mall.

Update: Still Censored

16th January 2009

More than a year after two sketches by Lahib Jaddo were banned at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, the artist still has not seen her works grace the walls of a city-governed gallery.

And she may not, even though she has an exhibit on the center's calendar for December.

 

19th December   

Update: Wrongful Death Claim Killed...

Judge dismisses case blaming GTA Vice City for murder
Link Here

GTA Vice City game GamePolitics has learned that a New Mexico judge today dismissed Jack Thompson’s wrongful death suit against Take Two Interactive and Sony.

The case, filed in 2006 by Thompson and a New Mexico attorney, claimed that Grand Theft Auto Vice City played a role in 14-year-old Cody Posey’s 2004 murder of his father, stepmother and stepsister.

In disposing of the case, Judge Huling ruled that the Court did not have jurisdiction over Take Two and Sony, since neither corporation has offices in New Mexico. Judge Huling also ruled that New Mexico laws did not support Thompson’s wrongful death claim in the case.

 

19th December   

Gunning for M.I.A...

MTV and Letterman silence MIA's best shot
Link Here

Kala CD by MIA British singer M.I.A. has let fly at MTV and David Letterman in a raging blog entry after they edited gunshot noises out of her new single Paper Planes .

The controversial singer-songwriter has achieved worldwide success with her album Kala , and recently visited New York to perform on Late Night With David Letterman.

In a lengthy blog entry littered with spelling mistakes and written in all capital letters, M.I.A. described her fury when she realised her performance was being censored on the talk show.

Paper Planes is the latest single off Kala and its hook features the line "all I want to do is", followed by several gunshot noises and the "cha-ching" of a cash register.

While no official statement regarding Letterman's gunshot chop has been released, online message boards have been debating the reason for the edit.

M.I.A.'s blog entry also attacked MTV, after the music channel — notorious for bleeping out anything to do with firearms — made a similar edit to the video version of Paper Planes .

 

12th December   

Rating Ratings...

Ratings should describe rather than proscribe
Link Here

Competitive Enterprise Institute logo The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a US think tank with a free market orientation, has issued a detailed position paper on media content ratings, including those of the ESRB.

Authored by Cord Blomquist and Eli Lehrer, Politically Determined Ratings and How to Avoid Them holds that the ESRB system, while complex, works better than most other rating schemes for media content. Ratings systems alone, however, cannot, over the long haul, influence the type of content produced.

From the report:

The best rating systems have three attributes: They attempt to describe, rather than prescribe, what entertainment media should contain; they are particularly suited to their particular media forms; and they were created with little or no direct input from government.

The [ESRB] system for evaluating computer games works better than most… Parents can tell, at a glance, exactly what they might find objectionable… Congress has held hearings on the video game industry and threatened to regulate content, but the system emerged almost entirely as a result of voluntary private action, and has worked well…

The authors also conclude that politics and media content ratings are a bad mix:

The best ratings systems have evolved in response to market forces. The First Amendment, correctly we believe, has long been interpreted to limit political control over entertainment media, anyway. Ratings systems that avoid government involvement will do a better job giving people the information they need.

 

12th December   

Art Zone...

Arty farty trumps anti-porn zoning law
Link Here

Guild Cinema Albuquerque's Guild Cinema's independent erotic film festival will not be fined for showing pornographic movies despite its violation of local zoning statutes, partially due to help from the American Civil Liberties Union and 1st Amendment arguments.

Late last week, city authorities threatened to fine the theater for every pornographic movie it showed as part of the festival, but representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union got involved on 1st Amendment grounds.

Molly Adler, co-owner of adult store Self Serve and one of the festival's organizers, said attendance was high all weekend, perhaps because of the publicity. She said the show of support drowned out the small number of complaints from neighbors.

The theater will receive a notice of violation, Albuquerque City Attorney Bob White said, but there will be no penalties. The city also is seeking a meeting with the Guild to avoid further problems.

Guild co-owner Peter Conheim told reporters that he was looking forward to meeting with city officials: My hope is that when we have this meeting ... we will be able to be granted a variance to do this kind of program, without a hassle, on an extremely rare basis. I hope it would mean we could work on the language of the zoning code so it takes more accurately into account art.

 

11th December   

YouTube Tits...

YouTube ban breastfeeding video
Link Here

YouTube logo The great breast-feeding debate raged after YouTube removed a breast-feeding video.

YouTube is the latest new media site to ban nursing images, following actions at MySpace and Facebook, according to the League of Maternal Justice. Bill Maher stoked the breast-feeding fire when he compared public nursing to masturbation earlier this year.

The folks at the League of Maternal Justice weren't totally surprised that YouTube banned the clip, which was viewed at least 68,000 times before disappearing, but they were upset.

The league asked why YouTube didn't just flag the video as explicit. YouTube stated is doesn't comment on specific videos.

 

9th December   

US Games Industry Under Duress...

National Institute on Media and the Family have their say
Link Here

National Institute on Media and the Family logo For several years, now the National Institute on Media and the Family has published their annual Video Games Report Card, a sort of "state of the union" address, whose purpose is to rate the various social and political agencies in the gaming world on their overall success in keeping the industry a socially progressive and "well adjusted" environment.

As you might expect, the NIMF places great emphasis on issues which relate directly to the issues surrounding gaming and children, like the violent content debate and parental/retailer responsibilities relating to it. Last year, the gaming industry did pretty well for itself, with big retailers and console manufacturers netting high praise for their efforts in promoting ratings awareness and parental controls in consoles.

In 2008 however, the NIMF's tone has turned decidedly icy towards the industry. "Complacency," reads the report's introduction, especially on the part of retailers and parents, appears to have caused a backslide in ratings awareness and enforcement. At the same time ... several shocking incidents have inadvertently revealed dangerous loopholes in the [ESRB's] ratings process. Simply put, some of the hard-won progress seen in previous years has been lost, and now, too many children are spending too much time playing inappropriate video games that can harm their health and development.

Central to the NIMF's annoyances is the fact parents seem to be telling lies about their own awareness of the ratings system. While more than 50% of adults interviewed were eager to claim awareness of the game ratings system, more than 70% could not actually identify or define what simple terms such as "Rated M" or "AO" meant.

Additionally, the NIMF is still upset more parents are not actively playing games with their children. 38% of moms and 31% of dads take no interest in what games junior has on the go, a situation which has apparently resulted in widespread instances of "M rated" content in the hands of the young'uns. More than 50% of 8-12 year olds for example admit to playing something inappropriate when mom and dad aren't watching. Maybe that's why instances of games causing family friction and infighting is discussed at length in the NIMF's report.

Of course, the Institute is also happy to point the finger at retailers for this occurrence, citing that kids are still able to buy M-Rated material at stores roughly 50% of the time. A select few retailers (Kmart, Hollywood Video and EB Games) managed to dodge the bullet of blame, with a startling 100% compliance figure in the NIMF's enforcement survey.

The report accuses the industry of continuing to dredge the well of poor taste through its promotional and marketing efforts, citing examples like the blood-spatterd Manhunt 2 Wii giveaway and the recent Kane and Lynch: Dead Men Playboy ad campaign, which featured prominently over MySpace. The NIMF dubs these tactics creative new ways to market adult games to kids" and "disgustingly familiar practices in the report.

Interestingly the NIMF does not contain its ire uniquely to the games industry, lashing out also at at religious institutions for the recent (and apparently bizarrely commonplace) trend of attracting youngsters to Sunday School with promises of Halo .

Perhaps the hardest hit party however in the 2008 survey was the ESRB, who took it on the chin multiple times in the report for what is obviously perceived as a severe case of falling down on the job. The Manhunt 2 controversy in particular was not kind to the ratings agency, and the report is full of rebuke for the agency's handling of the situation.

 

7th December   

SAFE Act...

US internet companies feel distinctly unsafe
Link Here

Senate building The U.S. House of Representatives have overwhelmingly approved a bill saying that anyone offering an open Wi-Fi connection to the public must report illegal images including "obscene" cartoons and drawings--or face fines of up to $300,000.

That broad definition would cover individuals, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, and even some government agencies that provide Wi-Fi. It also sweeps in social-networking sites, domain name registrars, Internet service providers, and e-mail service providers such as Hotmail and Gmail, and it may require that the complete contents of the user's account be retained for subsequent police inspection.

Before the House vote, which was a lopsided 409 to 2, Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) held a press conference on Capitol Hill with Ernie Allen, head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Allen said the legislation, called the Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online Act, or SAFE Act, will ensure better reporting, investigation, and prosecution of those who use the Internet to distribute images of illegal child pornography.

Wednesday's vote caught Internet companies by surprise: the Democratic leadership rushed the SAFE Act to the floor under a procedure that's supposed to be reserved for noncontroversial legislation. It was introduced October 10, but has never received even one hearing or committee vote. In addition, the legislation approved this week has changed substantially since the earlier version and was not available for public review.

This is what the SAFE Act requires: Anyone providing an "electronic communication service" or "remote computing service" to the public who learns about the transmission or storage of information about certain illegal activities or an illegal image must:

(a) register their name, mailing address, phone number, and fax number with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's "CyberTipline"
(b) "make a report" to the CyberTipline that
(c) must include any information about the person or Internet address behind the suspect activity
(d) the illegal images themselves.

The definition of which images qualify as illegal is expansive. It includes obvious child pornography, meaning photographs and videos of children being molested. But it also includes photographs of fully clothed minors in overly "lascivious" poses, and certain obscene visual depictions including a "drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting." (Yes, that covers the subset of anime called hentai).

Someone providing a Wi-Fi connection probably won't have to worry about the SAFE Act's additional requirement of retaining all the suspect's personal files if the illegal images are "commingled or interspersed" with other data. But that retention requirement does concern Internet service providers, which would be in a position to comply. So would e-mail service providers, including both Web-based ones and companies that offer POP or IMAP services.

Failure to comply with the SAFE Act would result in an initial fine of up to $150,000, and fines of up to $300,000 for subsequent offenses. That's the stick. There's a carrot as well: anyone who does comply is immune from civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions.

The vote on the SAFE Act seems unusually rushed. It's not entirely clear that the House Democratic leadership really meant this legislation to slap new restrictions on hundreds of thousands of Americans and small businesses who offer public wireless connections. But they'll nevertheless have to abide by the new rules if senators go along with this idea (and it's been a popular one in the Senate).

 

6th December   

Government Should Regulate Games Surveys...

Selective findings support government regulation
Link Here

ESA logo Public relations and public affairs consultancy Hill & Knowlton has released the results of a survey, conducted online by Opinion Research Corporation

It found that 60% of 1,147 adult U.S. consumers agree that the government should regulate the sale of violent or mature content.

Additionally, a slight majority, or 51%, of respondents said that the government should be responsible for regulating the content itself, while 54% of those with children in the home concurred that violent or mature content will affect a child's behavior.

As for current gamers surveyed, they split evenly on whether the government should regulate violent content specifically in games, with 44% agreeing it should and 47% responding it should not. Additionally, 55% of gamers also believe that the government should regulate only the sale of games with violent or mature content.

The Entertainment Software Association has responded vehemently to the newly released Hill & Knowlton research on game regulation, revealing it was part of a proposal to the ESA and claiming that the "unprofessional and unethical" release only selectively quotes the full findings.

However the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has responded vehemently to the Hill & Knowlton research on game regulation, revealing it was part of a proposal to the ESA and claiming that the "unprofessional and unethical" release only selectively quotes the full findings.

The official statement from the ESA on the announcement is as follows:

Today, Hill & Knowlton released the findings of research it conducted on the American public's views about the computer and video game industry. According to the agency's findings, a majority of respondents believe that the government should regulate the sale of mature content video games.

We understand that parents have concerns about mature content getting into the hands of children and we are working to help make sure that does not happen. To achieve this important goal, the ESA strongly supports a variety of efforts aimed at educating parents and retailers and allowing them to control mature content.

We support the ESRB, which is the nation's leading rating system working to educate and empower parents with game information. We have also worked within the industry to ensure that password protected, robust parental controls are included in all new video game consoles sold. In addition, we work with retailers to encourage the enforcement of policies that prohibit the sale of mature games to minors.

The research released today was conducted by Hill & Knowlton for a proposal the agency made to the ESA this summer, but only a portion of it was released publicly now. Hill & Knowlton's decision to release these findings was both unprofessional and unethical and its timing is questionable. The research was done this summer and only performed in an effort to help Hill & Knowlton win our business.

In addition, the release of only part of the findings paints an inaccurate picture of the entertainment software industry. The other research conducted by agency but not released showed:

  • More than two-thirds of 18-34 year olds currently play video games
  • Less than 1 in 5 Americans think playing video games is a negative way to spend time with friends and family
  • More than half of families think that video games are a positive way to spend time together
  • Educational video games are perceived to provide more learning than TV or DVDs.


27th November    Stick to Broadcast TV...
   
FCC struggling to get tighter grip on cable regulation

FCC logoThe head of the Federal Communications Commission is struggling to find enough support from a majority of the agency’s commissioners to regulate cable television companies more tightly.

The five-member commission is set to vote on Tuesday on a report, proposed by Kevin J. Martin, the agency’s chairman, that would give the commission expanded powers over the cable industry after making a formal finding that it had grown too big.

After news reports this month that Martin supported the finding — along with the commission’s two Democrats — the cable industry heavily lobbied the commission and allies in Congress to kill the proposal. Those efforts may be paying off.

 

3rd December    Sticking to Broadcast TV...
   
FCC fail to get tighter grip on cable regulation

FCC logoThe Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday backed away from a proposal by the agency's chairman that would open the door to broader regulation of cable TV operators.

The FCC balked at a finding proposed by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin that cable companies' subscribership levels had risen enough to justify broad regulation of the industry, agreeing instead to postpone a decision and approve more limited restrictions on the industry, Martin said.

Martin said a majority of the FCC's five commissioners were in agreement on the compromise. Martin said the agreement includes a measure that would limit the rates that cable operators can charge to lease spare channels to independent programmers.

The agreement came after a day of tough negotiations that began after Martin was unable to get a majority of the five commissioners to support the proposed finding.

The idea ran into resistance from Martin's two fellow Republicans on the commission. They questioned the way Martin had arrived at the 70% figure about the reach of cable TV, saying it conflicted with previous reports on the issue. The FCC's two Democratic commissioners also had reservations.

 

26th November    Staging Repression...
   
St Louis police halt stage performance

Making Porn posterThe curtain went down on Ronnie Larsen's play, Making Porn, only shortly after it opened over the March 11 weekend at SPOT, 4146 Manchester Street.

According to a press release by SPOT owner Thomas Long, St. Louis police halted the show during its second performance on Saturday night. The show is a comedy about the pornographic industry that does contain on-stage nudity, Long said in the release. That nudity allegedly broke the ordinance, according the city. It is unclear whether the nudity in Making Porn or its gay-themed subject matter was the catalyst for this action compared to other shows.

Long pointed out that Making Porn was being produced at SPOT by a California-based production company who had leased the space for a three-week run. The show has been produced in numerous other cities in the United States and internationally.

 

22nd November    School Bully...
   
Blogger threatened by school contending libel

Florida sealUnhappy with her daughter's private school, Sonjia McSween created a blog to warn other parents.

The unexpected result: The New School of Orlando Inc. slapped McSween with a defamation lawsuit to stop her from publishing and talking about the school and force McSween to pay damages.

Some say it's a case of censorship. Others say First Amendment rights have nothing to do with it.

Rebecca Jeschke, spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates digital free-speech rights and maintains a legal guide for bloggers said: People need to get used to this new world where everyone has a soapbox and can use it.

Also known as New School Preparatory, the kindergarten-through-eighth grade school alleges that McSween deliberately told unflattering lies, causing enrollment to drop. It alleges defamation, libel, slander and interference with business relations.

McSween contends that she was just sharing what happened to her and her daughter, Logan.

The problem started after Logan, now 7, began kindergarten at New School Preparatory in 2005. She withdrew in January and attends another private school. McSween said she spent thousands on tuition, books and registration for the school to "mistreat" her daughter.

My daughter went from being a happy child to a child who was scared to make a mistake because she was not perfect, McSween said.

The lawsuit says McSween posted false and otherwise libelous remarks alleging that students at the Marks Street school were belittled, exposed to "extreme stress" and "dictatorial conditions." She further alleged that the school told parents how to run their homes and threatened parents for speaking negatively about New School Preparatory.

Lawrence Walters, an Altamonte Springs First Amendment lawyer unfamiliar with the New School case, said lawsuits often are designed to stifle criticism by forcing defendants to back down to avoid expensive litigation.

 

18th November    What they Play...
   
Non-nutter computer games advice for parents

What they Play bannerTwo game industry veterans have launched a website that aims to help parents who might not know what a first-person shooter is but have kids clamouring for the new Halo 3 game. The site features reviews not for the kids playing the games but for the parents supervising them.

As former editor in chief of two magazines for devoted gamers, John Davison published hundreds of reviews that might as well have been in Klingon to someone who's never picked up a joystick.

"We wanted to provide a place where parents can turn to for neutral, objective information on the games their kids might want to play, said Davison. He and co-founder Ira Becker are counting on advertising to pay the bills.

Davison and Becker believe that parents want trusted, jargon-free information on games that can help them decide what's appropriate for their children. That exists for films, with websites such as Yahoo Inc.'s Movie Mom. But for games, there are few places for parents such as TereLyn Hepple to turn to that don't have social or religious agendas.

Davison said it was important that the editorial content remained neutral and descriptive because what might be scary to one child might be fun for another. For more subjective commentary, the site invites parents to write their own reviews.

We really believe that it's the parents that should be controlling this stuff, Davison said. And the best way to do that is to tell them the facts so they can make the call.

And just to show that ratings are hardly an exact science

  BBFC
UK Rating
ESRB
US Rating
WhatTheyPlay
Parents Rating
Manhunt 2 [Cut M rated version] Banned 17+ 14+
Mass Effect 12+ 17+ 16+

 

10th November    Cheapening Freedom...
   
Nominee Attorney General rants about porn prosecutions

Department of Justice sealDuring recent Senate confirmation hearings for Michael Mukasey, President George W. Bush’s nominee to fill the vacant U.S. Attorney General position, Mukasey said that if he is confirmed, he will reevaluate the Justice Department’s obscenity law enforcement strategy.

Senator Orrin Hatch raised the topic of adult entertainment, asserting that the Justice Department has in recent years compiled a terrible record enforcing adult obscenity law. Saying that pornography and obscenity consumption harms individuals, families [and] communities, Hatch asserted that the Justice Department in recent years had prosecuted too narrow a range of obscenity.

In his response, Mukasey appeared to agree with Hatch’s assessment, saying I recognize that mainstream materials can have an effect of cheapening a society, objectifying women, and endangering children in a way that we can’t tolerate, and promised to review the Justice Department’s current policy of prosecuting only “extreme” materials.

Asked for his reaction to Mukasey’s statement, Jeffrey Douglas, chairman of the Free Speech Coalition, told XBIZ that he was not worried that a major shift in obscenity prosecution strategy would take place at the Justice Department if Mukasey is confirmed.

When juries already are refusing to convict on material that can be described as ‘extreme,’ it seems naïve to believe that a future jury would turn around and convict on standard, run-of-the-mill hardcore, Douglas said.

 

10th November  Update:  Ungrateful Nutters...
   
Campaigning to ban Playboy for US Troops

Playboy MagazineTen years after Congress banned sales of sexually explicit material on military bases, the Pentagon is under fire for continuing to sell adult fare, such as Penthouse and Playmates In Bed, that it doesn't consider explicit enough to pull from its stores.

Dozens of religious nutter and anti-pornography groups have complained to Congress and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that a Pentagon board set up to review magazines and films is allowing sales of material that Congress intended to ban.

They're saying 'we're not selling stuff that's sexually explicit' … and we say it's pornography, says Donald Wildmon, head of the American Family Association, a Christian anti-pornography group. A letter-writing campaign launched Friday by opponents of the policy aims to convince Congress to get the Pentagon to obey the law, he adds.

In an Aug. 15 letter to the groups, Leslye Arsht, a deputy undersecretary of Defense, said the Pentagon's Resale Activities Board of Review uses appropriate guidelines to review material for sale.

This year, the board reviewed Penthouse and several Playboy publications and determined that based solely on the totality of each magazine's content, they were not sexually explicit, Arsht wrote.

The Military Honor and Decency Act of 1996 bars stores on military bases from selling "sexually explicit material." It defines that as film or printed matter the dominant theme of which depicts or describes nudity or sexual activities in a lascivious way.

Challenged as a First Amendment violation, the law was upheld by a U.S. appeals court in 2002.

Defense officials don't want to take porn away from soldiers, says Patrick Trueman, a former federal prosecutor who now works with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group. They say, 'well, 40% of this magazine is sexually explicit pictures, but 60% is writing or advertising, so the totality is not sexually explicit.' That's ridiculous.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who sponsored the law, says the military is skirting Congress' intent. He notes the material also could contribute to a hostile environment for female military personnel. If soldiers want to read that stuff, they can walk down the street and buy it somewhere else, Bartlett says. I don't want (the military) to help.

Nadine Strossen, a New York Law School professor who heads the American Civil Liberties Union, says the law effectively censors what troops get to read in remote areas or combat zones. We're asking these people to risk their lives to defend our Constitution's principles … and they're being denied their own First Amendment rights to choose what they read, she said.

 

7th November    Moral Pygmies...
   
Yahoo snitches grilled by US lawmakers

Yahoo China logoJerry Yang, Yahoo's US boss, and Michael Callahan, the company's top lawyer, were lambasted as moral "pygmies" by a top House Bay Area Democrat for the firm's role in helping China identify and jail a journalist in 2004.

Lawmakers of both parties accused the Sunnyvale Internet giant of prioritizing its profits in a booming China market over human rights by turning over secret data that enabled Chinese officials to track down and punish dissidents.

While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, said at the end of the three-hour hearing.

Yang defended his company's efforts to operate in a country with severe free speech restrictions, but was criticized by lawmakers who were furious that Yahoo didn't resist China's efforts to censor its citizens.

Yahoo bosses argued that it was better to try to expand the Internet in China, even if it meant agreeing to live under its repressive rules.

But most lawmakers complained that Yahoo appeared more focused on making money in China - with more than 150 million Internet users - than boosting the freedoms of its people. Smith compared Yahoo to IBM, whose punch card technology helped the Nazis accelerate their campaign to exterminate Jews in Europe.

Callahan noted that Yahoo had little choice about whether to agree to Beijing's orders because Yahoo employees would have been jailed for refusing to comply: I cannot ask our local employees to resist lawful demands and put their own freedom at risk, even if in my personal view the local laws are overbroad.

Congress is considering legislation that would ban U.S. Internet companies from providing information on its customers to repressive regimes.

Lawmakers also complained that Yahoo has done little to help the families of the jailed dissidents: You're one of the richest companies in the country and you don't know if you can meet the humanitarian needs of a couple of families? asked Brad Sherman, D-Los Angeles.


14th November  Update:  Moral Pygmies Settle...
   
Yahoo pays up in lawsuit over Chinese dissidents

Yahoo China logoYahoo has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought against it on behalf of several Chinese dissidents, according to papers filed in a California court.

No details have been given of the settlement, but Yahoo will cover legal costs and will also set up a fund to support other political dissidents.

The case alleged Yahoo had provided information to the Chinese government then used to prosecute the dissidents.

Yahoo said it had to comply with Chinese laws to operate in the country. But after settling the lawsuit, Yahoo chief executive Jerry Yang said it was clear to me what we had to do to make this right for them, for Yahoo and for the future.

A statement released by the World Organization for Human Rights USA, which brought the case, said Yahoo had decided to settle the case following criticism at a US Congressional hearing on 6 November.

One journalist cited in the case, Shi Tao, was tracked down and jailed for 10 years for subversion after Yahoo passed on his e-mail and IP address to officials. He was convicted in 2004 of divulging state secrets after posting online a Chinese government order forbidding media organisations from marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

 

3rd November    Censorship Kills...
   
50 Cent song re-titled
I Still Kill mp3 downloadRapper 50 Cent has felt the brunt of censorship, after his latest single I Still Kill has been banned by MTV and BET television in the US!

The track was deemed inappropriate and has been renamed I Still Will to avoid offending anyone.

Fiddy is not too happy with the decision: I don't think they have a problem with the group 'The Killers' being called 'The Killers', and I dont think anyone's protesting that 'Guns N Roses' is called 'Guns N Roses'!

I think that their perception of me is dark so they're going to ask for those things to be changed.

 

26th October    Gagging for a Conviction...
   
Jury finds Gag Factor 18 to be obscene
Department of Justice sealAfter just five hours of deliberation, a jury composed of eight women and four men announced that they had determined that Five Star Video LC and Five Star Video Outlet LC were guilty of obscenity charges for having shipped JM Productions’ Gag Factor 18 to an undercover FBI agent in Falls Church, Virginia.

The jury found the Five Star companies guilty of the interstate transportation of obscene materials and the interstate transportation of obscene material by common carrier. However, the companies were acquitted of the same charges for shipping two similar JM Productions videos, Filthy Things 6 and American Bukakke 13.

Five Star co-owner Ken Graham, who had received a directed verdict of not guilty on Tuesday, told AVN that he spoke with some of the jurors after they had been dismissed by Judge Roslyn O. Silver. Graham said that the jurors had agreed that Gag Factor 18 was “too extreme” for the community standards of the Phoenix area.

However, the jurors admitted that many of them were familiar with adult video productions, and had found Filthy Things 6 consistent with ordinary adult fare. The jurors were divided as to American Bukakke 13, with its depiction of multiple men ejaculating on a single female – which several of the jurors had found offensive, according to Graham.

 

24th October    Googling for Freedom...
   
Global Online Freedom Act progresses
Capitol HillCongress has moved a step closer to enacting a new law regulating key aspects of how American tech companies operate in countries whose governments censor or otherwise manipulate the Internet.

As expected, the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs backed a slightly amended version of the Global Online Freedom Act.

Whether the bill will actually go anywhere from here is debatable. A Republican-controlled subcommittee passed a nearly identical proposal more than a year ago, but it never got any further attention.

Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), it's a broad effort to hold American firms accountable for their practices in countries deemed by the U.S. government to be "Internet-restricting".

American firms would face a host of new restrictions and obligations under the bill. For instance, they wouldn't be allowed to store any e-mails or other electronic communications containing "personally identifiable information" about their users on servers in any of the designated countries. And they'd be obligated to give the State Department a detailed breakdown of how their products' search results have been filtered and all URLs that have been removed or blocked at the request of foreign governments known to be restrictive.

If approached by local authorities with requests for users' personal information, American companies wouldn't be allowed to turn it over except for legitimate law enforcement purposes, as determined by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Failure to comply with any of those rules could result in fines of up to $2 million.

 

23rd October    Adult Networking Banned...
   
YouPorn and adult networking threatened by 2257 law
YouPornyouPorn is the highest trafficked adult website in the world. But YouPorn and other blue Web 2.0 startups could be out of business in the near future if proposed changes to 18 U.S.C. 2257 are accepted into law.

Known in the industry as "2257," this law defines requirements porn producers must follow to verify the age of every performer, keep records about the performers' identities and make those records available to the government. The proposed changes would extend the statute's reach beyond adult-content producers to include social networking websites.

That could mean every adult who wants to upload a naughty picture to a social network would have to submit a photo ID and state their full name, date of birth and other personal information. The network would have to maintain that record for as long as the picture exists and ensure the record is available without question to The Authorities between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Porn studios already have a hard time complying with all the ins and outs of recordkeeping laws. And while adult social networking sites do seem to try to keep illegal material off their servers, I think it would be impossible for a social networking site to comply with the proposed changes.

What if users submit false information, who gets punished? Who verifies IDs? A studio production assistant can check performer IDs in person; would social networks have to open offices all over the country to verify prospective members in person? Good luck with that one.

The ostensible purpose of the law is to curtail child pornography, and no legitimate porn producer argues with that. In fact, many have become rather paranoid about not letting underage individuals slip through the screening process.

You can put pressure on a business to comply with ridiculous legal requirements, but try leaning on millions of individuals engaging in private, personal behavior in their own bedrooms. Even Alabama focused its sex-toy ban on the stores, not on the use or possession by individuals.

We have become complacent in recent years about the government's ability to control the form and art of things. But the substance, the life, the sex? Not when the venue is this private (your own home). And when the regulations apply to  regular people doing something perfectly innocent, like posting a fully nude self-portrait on an adults-only network.

 

20th October    Losing Face...
   
Facebook cede to government demands for censorship
FacebookAttorney General Andrew Cuomo and Facebook have unveiled censorship procedures said to protect against sexual predators and obscene content from getting on the social-networking Web site.

Under the settlement, Facebook says it will enforce the new standards within 24 hours after a complaint about pornography or harassment is lodged.

Cuomo, whose office was investigating Facebook, said an independent examiner will report on Facebook's compliance for two years. The company must also post safety procedures on its Web site.

Cuomo said that Facebook can serve as a model for other sites, saying his office may take on similar efforts with other Internet networking companies.

Last month, Cuomo announced an investigation into Facebook after undercover investigators posing as children were allegedly solicited by sexual predators and the company was lax in responding to complaints. Other attorneys general were conducting similar inquiries.

Under the agreement, Facebook will disclose the new safety procedures on its Web site, including adding hyperlinks for users or parents to give feedback about the company's response to complaints.

 

10th October    Top 10 Library Books...
   
The most whinged about that is

And Tango Makes ThreeThe 10 most whinged about library books of 2006, according to the American Library Association are:

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family and unsuited to age group.
Gossip Girls series, by Cecily Von Ziegesar, for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group and offensive language.
Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, for sexual content and offensive language.
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler, for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language and unsuited to age group.
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group.
Scary Stories series, by Alvin Schwartz, for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence and insensitivity.
Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher, for homosexuality and offensive language.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language and unsuited to age group.
Beloved, by Toni Morrison, for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group.
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier, for sexual content, offensive language and violence.

 

5th October   Needing Psychological Help
 

   
Califormia state sealCivil case against hotel for not blocking porn channels

From X Biz see full article

The civil case brought by Edwina McCombs against a California motel claiming that it did not adequately protect her 8 and 9-year-old daughters from accessing porn on TV while she was taking a bath goes before Norwalk Superior Court this week.

McCombs checked into the Value Lodge in Artesia, California, in August 2006, informing the person at the front desk that she was there with her two young daughters. After entering the room, she went to take a bath and her children turned on the TV to watch a children’s show.

"Instead," her attorneys said, the children were subjected to hardcore pornography with close-up images of people engaged in various homosexual sexual acts.

McCombs’ attorneys have said they will prove that the motel does not block its adult channels, does not post any warning signs, does not provide a list of channels to its guests and does not provide any restrictions at all against children accessing free adult material.

Value Lodge was negligent in failing to use preventative measures to restrict a child from accessing adult TV channels, one of the attorneys said. As a result of this negligence, this family has incurred great expense in obtaining appropriate psychological help for the McComb’s children.


13th October  Update:  Blocking out the Real World...
   
Motel to pay out for unblocked porn

Califormia state sealA jury has awarded $85,000 to a Nashville woman who sued an Artesia motel when her elementary school-aged daughters were exposed to pornography during their stay last summer.

Edwina McCombs and her daughters, then 8 and 9, were in Southern California when they checked into Value Lodge on. While McCombs used the bathroom, the girls channel-surfed for children's programming and encountered "hardcore and graphic pornography", said one of McCombs' attorneys, Eliot Krieger.

McCombs said: This is not about religion. This is about morality and children, and children have a right to be kids even though everybody, in many ways, is trying to push our kids to grow up. They have a right to be kids at 8 and 9 years old.

Of the sum, $65,000 was awarded to McCombs for economic damages and $20,000 for the youngest daughter, now 9. McCombs said she took a mortgage out of her house to pay for attorney's fees and for ongoing therapy and counseling she and her daughters receive following the incident. Her insurance does not cover counseling costs, she said.

 

1st October   Update: Cautious Welcome
 

   
Lust Caution poster
Audiences are wary of NC-17. Ang Lee's film may change that

From LA Times

The NC-17 rating has long been the movie industry's equivalent of the scarlet letter.

Slap the label on a movie and audiences would shun it, many theater owners would refuse to show it and the film certainly would be a long shot for an Academy Award.

But some in Hollywood are hoping the latest film by Taiwanese director Ang Lee will change the way American audiences perceive the NC-17 label. Lee's movie Brokeback Mountain shattered Hollywood convention when the stereotype-busting picture about gay cowboys catapulted into the mainstream two years ago and won him an Academy Award for best director.

Now, theater owners are being encouraged by their trade group to show his latest film, Lust, Caution, an erotic spy thriller that opens in the U.S. today. The picture, rated NC-17, opened briskly in Hong Kong and Taiwan, where it was released earlier this week.

If Ang Lee does well, then maybe others will follow and we can get rid of these myths that have created challenges for this rating, said John Fithian, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners.

James Schamus, Focus' chief executive and cowriter of the film's screenplay, is determined to show that mainstream American audiences are ready for "grown-up" movies with erotic themes, just as they proved ready to embrace a film about love between two cowboys. Focus was the producer and distributor of Brokeback Mountain.

Very few films have accepted the rating because they assume people will be turned off, said Schamus, Lee's longtime collaborator. That is the assumption we are questioning. I am not saying this will be a slam-dunk, commercial movie, but we may well have made the film that changes NC-17 in the culture. I think the time has come.

Certain theater circuits such as Cinemark, one of the nation's largest exhibitors, have policies prohibiting the showing of NC-17 films.

Focus is lobbying chains to reconsider the policy and has found an ally in Fithian, who has been trying to mobilize the members of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners to support the movie. He brought up the issue at the group's annual gathering in Chicago last week.

We are strongly encouraging our members to give due consideration to this picture and what it means, which is that if you take a good filmmaker and take a good film and make it NC-17 it can be commercially viable, Fithian said.

Cinemark said however that it was standing by its policy of prohibition.

 

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