Wednesday, June 22, 2005

18 USC 2257: At what cost protection?

Politics is about priorities. What matters more to you? Protecting children from exploitation, or the freedom of the press to write about important political issues? This question becomes of import as US Code Title 18, Section 2257 is about to reach it's effective date. On June 24, any entity which publishes sexually explicit materials across state boundaries will be required to provide enough details about each subject in the material so that the government may ascertian whether or not they are under 18 years of age. Sounds innocuous, right? That is, until you realize several implications of the law:
  • Strange as it may sound, porn stars are people, too, and as such have some expectation of privacy. (Hence the usage of pseudonyms.)
  • Sexually explicit materials are not by nessescity pornographic, nor designed for entertainment. I doubt that the Abu Gharib photos will find their way into porn shops across the nation any time soon, yet they fall under this law.
  • In some (many) cases, the recordkeeping requirement is unreasonable. Let me enumerate two examples: 1) You leave your webcam on by accident, and have sex within range of it... and are now liable for a five year jail sentance. 2) Once again, consider the Abu Gharib photos. Some of these are sexually explicit enough to fall under the law, and yet full disclosure may be impossible if a reporter doesn't know the identity of the infringing individuals. Would you limit the reporting of an important political event?
Furthermore, consider that this doesn't really help children all that much: child porn is already illegal, so now you've just added another crime to the plate. They didn't think they'd get caught, so how's it help? Legally and socially, this makes as much sense as Texas' tax on pot.
Thus, in the name of some vauge "protection," we have given the government still more power to prevent free expression, in particular, with regards to valid journalism. Not that all targets are so high and mighty... one of the first to be hit by the chilling effect is the spinoff, adult humor site the Gaping Maw. As reported by BoingBoing, among others, the site has been forced to shut down as a result of ammendments to the law which go into effect soon. Good to see that all those child porn sites are going away... except that Gaping Maw wasn't one at all. Forget the War on Child Porn... it's just a War on Porn.

Update: This post made in onto BoingBoing!

Update: Irony abounds... a Google search for 18 USC 2257 turns out to be a really efficient way of finding porn sites... so much for the War on Porn!

Update: Check out Minimalist, strong statement. I like it.


Anonymous said...

Wait to go, Chris! Your email to Xeni made it onto Boingboing! You are a little bit of a celebrity now.

Anyhow, I'm deeply concerned about this law for a few reasons. Firstly, I did not hear one word about this law until I hear about it going into effect. Second, I'm concerned as a creator -- an artist. I'm not a pornographer, but if I want to create a film that involves nudity, how am I supposed to handle this whole new set of obstacles? Publishing successfully is difficult enough without government interference! Also, what about illustrations? How does this law effect them?

Your pal, Mass Treble.

Unknown said...

Hehe. Thanks, MT (you don't mind if I call you that, do you?).

With regards to this disturbing law, I seem to think that a crapflooding of the law is in order. Perhaps its just me, but this idea has two roots: 1) Crapflooding is what the 'net does best, and 2) the gov't has trouble dealing with crapflooding.

In short, let this not be a chilling effect, but a call to action. I should set up a site that links non-compliant works, just to screw with people. As I wouldn't be publishing the works, I wouldn't be liable... and the works could be served over Freenet, Tor, etc., or off-shores, thus frustrating legal countermeasures. I am reminded of the DeCSS Gallery that effectively crapflooded the hell out of the DMCA.

The problem is, this has little to no effect on the broader problem... once the crapflood's momentum ends, the law remains. Thus, it should act only as a tactic of stalling until the ACLU, EFF, and porn industries get their shit together. How ironic that Bush, the antagonist of the story, just got done meeting with a porn star.

Anonymous said...

I've been watching the news all day today waiting for some sort of comment, but still nothing.

But I did see several hours of coverage about the missing girl in Aruba and footage of a deer getting out of a swimming pool. Oh! and Chris Tucker was arrested for speeding -- way back in April. They showed footage of that. And Oprah showed up at a Hermes store afterhours so she could buy Tina Turner a $6500, the store turned her away, those bastards! Tom Cruise still loves Katie Holmes, and Karl Rove hates liberals.

But wealthy, politically connected land developers had a good day at least. The Supreme Court says they can kick us out of our homes and build a Wal-Mart if they want.

Isn't it great to be an American?

Unknown said...

No. Don't get me wrong... I love the country's ideals, but the populus pisses me off. They take freedom so for granted, they'd throw it out to prevent people (consentual adults!) from partaking of pornography. Of all the idiotic causes to risk liberty over, this is one of the worst. That, and as you mentioned, the lack of attention is driving the problem still further. Swing low, sweet chariot.

Anonymous said...

It's me again! Say, do you know who that anonymous person up there is? The 8:30 person? They didn't leave a name.

Anyhow, It's D-day. I queried google, and I find miles and miles of complaince notices. How horrible. They shouldn't have to jump through this hoop.

Also, you're not kidding: this is an excellent way to find porn sites. Huh! How's that for an unintended side-effect?