Pornographic material and adult entertainment might be getting a lot more expensive in the state of Alabama.
The Alabama House Ways and Means Committee passed the proposed porn tax in a 10-4 vote for an extortionately high rate of tax to offset
a massive budget shortfall .
In addition to any other applicable taxes, a 40% state excise tax will be levied on gross receipts from the sale, rental or admission charges of pornographic material. The tax will apply to any and all forms of
pornographic or sexually explicit content purchased in the state of Alabama, including, but not limited to, pornographic magazines, adult videos, and online adult rentals.
The porn tax bill now heads to the Alabama House for a floor vote.
Thanks to the state Senate, Alabama was able to avoid an anticipated First Amendment lawsuit over its budget proposal, which included an extortionate tax on pornography.
In order to make up a $200 million shortfall , Alabama wanted to raise taxes
with sin taxes. On Sept. 15, the porn tax failed to pass the Senate, during a budget vote in which the chamber approved two budget reform measures while also raising taxes by roughly $86 million annually .
As proposed, the tax on porn was
clearly unconstitutional. The First Amendment protects artistic expression, even if pornographic. Alabama, by taxing the specific category of pornographic material, is directly engaging in content-based discrimination, something the Supreme Court
does not allow. Indeed, in the 1972 case Police Department v. Mosely , the Court noted that above all else, the First Amendment means that the government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its
content. Thus, regulations that treat a category of content differently than other categories will be held unconstitutional unless it passes the exacting legal test of strict scrutiny.
Strict scrutiny requires a compelling governmental
interest that is narrowly tailored to be the least restrictive means of accomplishing that interest. Absent those factors, a law will be deemed unconstitutional.
A US appeal court has stepped in to prevent a bully shopping mall magnate from censoring a critical blogger via copyright claims.
The court issued an opinion blocking the use of copyright to censor unwanted online criticism. The
decision, Katz v. Chevaldina , is important because although copyright law is frequently misused as a tool to censor speech, it rarely makes it into court to be challenged. And here, the court stopped the plaintiff in his tracks.
As we explained in an earlier blog post , the plaintiff, Raanan Katz --the owner of a number of shopping centers throughout Florida and a minority owner of the Miami Heat --didn't like how an online blogger was using an unflattering photograph of him in blog posts criticizing his business practices. So he acquired the copyright for the photograph and went after the blogger for copyright infringement. At the district court, the blogger, Irina Chevaldina, moved for summary judgment on the ground that her use of the photograph for the purpose of criticizing Katz was fair use and protected under federal copyright law. The district court agreed , ruling in favor of the blogger. But Katz appealed.
We filed an amicus brief with the Eleventh Circuit back in May, urging the court to see this behavior for what is was-- i.e ., a blatant attempt to abuse copyright law. The Eleventh Circuit agreed with us, seeing straight through
Katz' behavior and characterizing the case as Katz's attempt to utilize copyright as an instrument of censorship against unwanted criticism. The court ultimately upheld the district court's holding that Chevaldina's use of the unflattering
photograph was protected fair use.
In upholding the district court's fair use holding, the Eleventh Circuit rejected Katz attempts to argue that Chevaldina was using the photograph for commercial use--an argument that we had
pointed out to be ridiculous. As the court recognized:
Chevaldina unabashedly criticized and commented on the dealings of Katz, his businesses, and his lawyers. Chevaldina's blog posts sought to warn and educate others
about the alleged nefariousness of Katz, and she made no money from her use of the photo.
The court also found that Chevaldina's use of the photograph was transformative, because, in the context of the blog post's
surrounding commentary, she used Katz's purportedly 'ugly' and 'compromising' appearance to ridicule and satirize his character.
The court further rejected the Katz's disingenuous argument that Chevaldina's use of the
photograph would have a detrimental effect on the potential value of the photograph. As the court stated:
Katz took the highly unusual step of obtaining the copyright to the Photo and initiating this lawsuit specifically to
prevent its publication. . . . Due to Katz's attempt to utilize copyright as an instrument of censorship against unwanted criticism, there is no potential market for his work.
In the meantime, back in May, the district court
ordered Katz to pay Chevaldina $152,433.68 in attorneys' fees plus another $2,403.50 in costs. The court admonished Katz, During the more than two years that this litigation consumed, Plaintiff should have at all times known his claim would eventually
fail when the truth of his motivations was eventually know. The court went on:
It is crystal clear that Plaintiff's motivations pursuing this lawsuit were improper. Instead of using the law for its intended
purposes of fostering ideas and expression, Plaintiff obtained the photograph's copyright solely for the purpose of suppressing Defendant's free speech .
A broad coalition of global tech firms including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Yahoo are protesting a broad injunction that would require search engines, ISPs and hosting companies to stop linking to or offering services to MovieTube. The
preliminary injunction requested by the MPAA resurrects parts of the controversial SOPA bill, the tech giants warn.
In recent months there have been several lawsuits in the U.S. in which copyright holders were granted broad injunctions, allowing them
to seize domain names of alleged pirate sites.
In addition, these injunctions were sometimes directed at hosting providers, search engines and social networks, preventing these companies from doing business with these sites.
such a request came from Hollywood's major movie studios, who previously sued several MovieTube websites. The companies asked for a preliminary injunction ordering several third-party companies to stop linking or providing services to the pirate sites.
This proposal reminded some opponents of the blocking provisions that were listed in the controversial SOPA bill. Among the opposition are some of the largest tech firms in the world.
A few hours ago Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and
Yahoo submitted an amicus brief asking the New York federal court not to include neutral service providers in the injunction.
According to the tech giants the proposed language goes too far. An injunction should not target companies that are not
in active participation with MovieTube, nor should it circumvent the rules that are outlined in the DMCA, they argue.
The tech companies suggest that the MPAA is trying to resurrect SOPA-powers through this lawsuit and ask the court to halt
their efforts. The companies argue:
Plaintiffs now appear to be repackaging the excesses of SOPA into the All Writs Act. Indeed, the injunction proposed here would require the same online intermediaries targeted by
SOPA to engage in the same kind of content and domain blocking that would have been required under SOPA had it been enacted.
The Court should not allow intellectual property rightsholders to obtain through the existing statutes
the very sort of third-party blocking orders that failed to gain legislative approval.
The EFF has joined a broad coalition of 31 organizations in sending a letter to Senate leadership opposing an unconstitutionally vague law that would require Internet companies to report to the government when they obtain actual knowledge of any
facts and circumstances related to terrorist activity. Section 603 of the Intelligence Authorization Act 2016 (S. 1705), which does not define terrorist activity, raises significant First and Fourth Amendment concerns, including the
chilling of protected speech and the warrantless search and seizure of private electronic content.
The most obvious flaws in Section 603 are its vagueness and overbreadth: it will chill wholly legal speech and conduct. The key reason is that there is
no clear agreement in U.S. society about what counts as terrorism (and triggers mandatory reporting). The single, tiny island of clarity in the term terrorist activity is one non-exclusive reference to 18 U.S.C. § 842(p), which makes it
unlawful for a person to distribute information relating to explosives if the person has knowledge that the recipient intends to use the information to commit a violent crime.
Because Section 603 leaves both companies and users uncertain as to
what exactly triggers the mandatory reporting requirement, this vague obligation to report will encourage service providers to broadly implement the law and will, in turn, encourage users to self-censor to avoid being reported to the federal government
as possible terrorists. Without further clarification, the law will likely put innocent political activists, journalists, engaged citizens, professors and students participating in wholly lawful debate and research under a cloud of suspicion. For
many, the risk of being put on a mysterious government watch list will more often than not outweigh the benefit of speaking.
With limited context for, say, a tweet or private direct message, service providers will err on the side of over-reporting
and submit First Amendment-protected speech through content-flagging or automated monitoring systems.
Pixels is a 2015 USA action comedy by Chris Columbus. Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Michelle Monaghan.
When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration
of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games.
According to some of the emails leaked from Sony, the studio heavily edited the movie Pixels to ensure it didn't fall foul of the ever-present Chinese censors.
Reuters is reporting that the original script for the movie, which made frequent references to China, was
sanitized after executives felt it could hinder its global box office appeal.
For example, one scene, which featured pixelated aliens blasting a hole into the Great Wall of China, was decided to be too inflammatory for Chinese censors. Li
Chow, chief representative of Sony Pictures in China, explained that although the film featured other landmarks being destroyed, it was simply better to lose the scene.
The original script also apparently contained references to a Communist
Conspiracy brother hacking an email server. As you can expect, this was also stripped in an attempt to pass the movie for the Chinese market. In fact, by the end of the cull, there were no references to the authoritarian nation left in the script.
Initially, it seemed Sony execs toyed with the idea of releasing both a Chinese and international version of Pixels. Ultimately they decided this would likely backfire.
American rapper Chief Keef has had a holographic show halted by police. The holographic projection was part of a Chicago music event called Craze Fest
Now the company behind the presentation is threatening to sue the local mayor.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott said he believed Keef was outlawed in Chicago and so took steps to prevent the performance. He said that he had heard Keef had recorded a lot of songs about gangs and gun violence.
Chief Keef has an
outstanding warrant for lapsed child support payments in the state of Illinois,
Keef is reported to be very laid back about the ban with an organiser saying: He's used to the police and city always shutting him down, that's been the case
since day one.
MasterCard and Visa have supported a move to censor advertisements in the adult section of classified ad website Backpage.com.
The credit card companies will now longer allow their card to be used for payment for such adverts.
The move comes
after a sheriff in Cook County, Illinois named Thomas Dart requested that both credit companies sever ties with the site. He cites for reasons of supposed trafficking but no doubt the basis is a moral judgement against adult services.
Update: Censored by MasterCard even when the service is legal
Thosusands of Australian sex workers say their legitimate business is being brought to a grinding halt by censorship by credit card companies instigated by a US county sherriff.
Mastercard has announced it was implementing a worldwide ban on
customers placing adult ads on Backpage.com, an online classified advertising marketplace used widely by sex workers to promote their services.
The site has long come under fire from moralist in the US, where sex work is illegal in most states,
for promoting prostitution. But the censorship still applies even where legal.
The Scarlet Alliance, which speaks on behalf of Australian sex workers, said Backpage.com was the primary source of clientele for many local sex workers.
Brisbane sex worker Nikki Cox said she was angry and upset about Mastercard's decision. She said:
We have fought long and hard in this country to have the rights that we do.
For a sheriff in the USA to come along and appeal to have credit card companies remove the option of using our card to
pay for advertising services is a badly thought out decision on his behalf.
This is fine for the USA where sex work is illegal in 49 states but it should not have a rollover effect in Australia.
Alliance CEO Janelle Fawkes went one step further, accusing Mastercard of discrimination.
We have anti-discrimination protection for sex workers in some parts of Australia, and much of that legislation is framed around
treating sex workers differently and disadvantaging them.
This is very specifically singling out and discriminating against sex workers, which is absolutely unacceptable.
Sex workers are part of the
community and are earning a legitimate income like everyone else, and they have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.
The online classified web site Backpage.com, long used by sex workers as a low-cost means of advertising their services and screening clients, has announced that it is allowing users to post ads for free to the adult services section of its site.
Backpage has been sending e-mails to users of the adult services section of the site informing them that they could use free promo code FREESPEECH until their payment situation was resolved to post ads.
Advertisers can also still use
bitcoin to pay for ads, and the company recently began allowing users to pay for credits that could be used to post ads. The credits can be purchased by money order, check or cash mailed to a P.O. Box in Dallas.