Sunday 30th April - Meeting Jason Hendrix at CLAW. His halo seems to have slipped.
April came and went in a flash. London celebrated Bear and Leather Pride 2006 over Easter and two weeks later I flew to Cleveland for CLAW. The roads were closed around the CLAW host hotel as Spiderman 3 was being filmed outside, so we watched New York taxis drive past over and over again from our hotel room window. It was fun watching one of the hotel guests trying to hail a NYC cab to take her to the airport.
Last November I wrote a web column about attacks on the leather and SM community. The column described three campaigns against censorship on both sides of the Atlantic led by the Free Speech Coalition, Backlash and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. A lot has happened in the last six months, so here's an update on the campaigns.
IF YOU LIVE IN THE USA:
Law 18 U.S.C. 2257 ("2257" for short) requires producers of adult material to keep records of all models to prove that they aren't children - even if it's obvious. The law has been around for over 10 years, but in May 2005 the US Justice Department gave producers of adult material 30 days notice that they were going to tighten up the rules to include:
As of June 23rd 2005 any producer of adult entertainment in the USA who fails to comply with all the regulations laid out in 2257 could face up to 5 years in jail, civil fines, or a combination of civil and criminal penalties.
The Free Speech Coalition is the trade organisation of the adult entertainment industry in the USA. They are leading the campaign against oppressive government regulation. During the last year FSC has been reaching out to the leather community to help address the particular censorship and political problems facing leather communities and businesses. Instigator Magazine has been very involved and very effective in this effort, along with other community leaders.
The FSC is challenging the new rules in a lawsuit against the Justice Department, which is under the stewardship of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The suit was filed in June 2005 in the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and is called "Free Speech Coalition et al v. Gonzales". By doing so, they have been able to prevent enforcement of the law against their members for the time being. The government is challenging this decision.
The fight is still going on. The lawsuit is ongoing and there are proposals from the US federal government to make the impact of 2257 even more devastating.
IF YOU LIVE IN THE UK:
Last year the Home Office and the Scottish Executive launched a joint public consultation on their plans to "criminalise possession of extreme pornography". Thanks to an awareness and fund raising campaign led by Backlash, the Home Office received over 400 responses, 313 from individuals and 82 from organisations. The majority of individuals were against the proposals.
The Spanner Trust was invited to meet representatives from the Home Office in April. The meeting was very positive and the discussions reassured us that - at the present time at least - any plans to criminalise the viewing of extreme pornographic imagery will be much less far-reaching than had been indicated in the consultation paper. The Home Office also said they will continue to discuss the proposals with the Spanner Trust as they evolved.
The Spanner Trust is keeping supporters up to date with the proposals via their newsletter. To join the mailing list please email subscribe (at) spannertrust.org - you can also see the last newsletter here.
IF YOU LIVE IN THE USA:
In 2001 the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and Barbara Nitke, a fine art photographer, mounted a legal challenge to the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which contains provisions that ban speech and images from the Internet that any local community in the US could deem obscene, even though that speech would be fully protected elsewhere.
Their case was heard at the Federal District Court for the Southern District of NY, but the three judge panel did not rule in the plaintiff's favour. In August 2005 Barbara Nitke and the NCSF filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sadly the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision without even hearing oral arguments. Susan Wright, media spokesperson for the NCSF, explains further:
Saturday 29th April - My upgrades: Jason Hendrix (IML 2004) and Michael Egdes (IML 2005)
What effect will this ruling have on people wishing to include "adult" material in their websites in the US (educational or otherwise)?
Many people will self-censor their websites especially if they have materials dealing with sadomasochism or urination and defecation, since those are mentioned as targets in an FBI memo on obscenity. We need to know who is self-censoring themselves. You can remain anonymous, but please contact Susanw (at) ncsfreedom.org if you have removed images or text from your website because of fear of prosecution. We need to gather this information to prove to the courts that too many people are being "chilled" by current obscenity law.
Will this affect people hosting adult material on a website outside the US?
US law can not be applied to foreign businesses or individuals, even though their websites are available in the US. Because of the global nature of the Internet, it makes no sense to use "local community standards" to determine if a website is illegal.
What will you do with any money raised for the Supreme Court appeal?
At the moment, we have broken even. NCSF and Nitke refrained from another call for donations because we wanted to find out if the Supreme Court would hear our case. That would have entailed another round of expenses. We were very lucky to have pro bono lawyers, the best in the country when it comes to 1st Amendment law as it pertains to obscenity. John Wirenius was our lead counsel.
What's the next step for the NCSF?
NCSF will continue to help gather information on self-censorship within the 'alt sex' communities to assist in fighting obscenity laws. NCSF will continue to join in lawsuits that deal with obscenity laws by supplying Amicus Briefs and supporting information from our communities.
The court case must have been very stressful for everyone involved. If it's not too intrusive, how have you all coped?
The lawsuit lasted almost 5 years, and it certainly took a great deal of effort to raise the funds and gather the experts and data needed to win our case. But we aren't ready to give up. It may take longer than we anticipated, but we are going to win this battle.
Please continue to support the FREE SPEECH COALITION, BACKLASH, THE SPANNER TRUST and THE NATIONAL COALITION FOR SEXUAL FREEDOM.
If you sit back and do nothing our attackers might come after your personal freedoms next.
Thanks for your help.
International Mr Leather 2003