Porn Inspectors

Adult industry fights tight rules.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is eager to keep a closer eye on porn--and this is one time the adult entertainment industry would prefer a smaller audience. The Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for producers and distributors of adult content, wants to block expanded record keeping requirements--known as "2257 rules," after the section of the criminal code in which they're found--that they say place unreasonable burdens on their businesses.

The rules require producers to keep records verifying that all their performers are of legal age to appear in adult movies or magazines. But in June, based on a new interpretation of the original 1990 statute, the Justice Department extended those requirements to "secondary producers" (such as Web sites that host adult content), demanded that more extensive records be kept for longer periods of time, and announced that it would do random inspections of those records. Violators face up to five years in prison for a first offense, 10 for subsequent offenses. A Justice Department press release claims the rules "are crucial to preventing children from being exploited by the production of pornography."

But Free Speech Coalition Communications Director Tom Hymes argues that "the point of these regulations is certainly not to protect children or minors, because it will not do that. The purpose can only be a punitive one, to create burdens that are so onerous on this industry that lots of people are driven out of business." Smaller producers and distributors, he points out, will be especially burdened. Individuals who stream webcam images of themselves over the Internet, for example, may find it prohibitively expensive to preserve copies of all the content they transmit. And many performers may be wary of giving their personal information--including real names and addresses--to every "secondary producer" who hosts their work.

From a legal perspective, the Free Speech Coalition argues that the restrictions amount to a prior restraint on constitutionally protected speech, that many of the rules are unworkably vague, and that the inspection provisions--which for small producers may entail visits to private homes--offend the Fourth Amendment.�

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