October 13, 2008
Obscenity Convictions Raise Issues
PC World takes a look at two federal pornography/obscenity convictions involving distribution via the Internet. The first involves Paul F. Little, also known as Max Hardcore. Little was convicted in Florida though his production company was in California. The second case involved Karen Fletcher, a Pennsylvania woman who operated a web site that trafficked in stories about violence to and molestation of children. That case was singled out because there were no pictures distributed, which would unquestionably be illegal, only text.
Little's conviction raised issues because of the community standards test that is central to obscenity convictions. The Department of Justice press release indicates that Little's company sent films to a Tampa address via the U.S. mail and transmitted five video clips via the Internet. The question comes down to can the community standards of one area be used to define the level of tolerance for for allegedly obscene pornography for the entire United States. The answer seems to be yes, if that is how prosecutors work the system. So far the number of prosecutions seem to be small in comparison to the amount of porn traveling over the networks. Statistics show that in 2006 the Internet accounted for $2.84 billion dollars in revenue to the adult entertainment industry. TopTenREVIEWS says the total U.S. adult industry take of $13.33 billion is this is more than the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC. They probably left Fox out because they weren't sure where the network wound up in the equation (joke).
Fletcher's case raises a different issue. Her site featured stories, no pictures. In light of the Supreme Court case of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234 (2002) that said pictorial virtual child pornography could not be banned under the First Amendment, can words which trigger mental images be suppressed? Since Fletcher pleaded pleaded guilty rather than being convicted, this issue will not be litigated, at least in this case. [MG]
October 13, 2008 | Permalink
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