The DOJ goes after porn

This story begins in 1983, when a 15 year old with used a fake California Driver’s License and birth certificate to get a state identification card that identified her as Kristie Elizabeth Nussman, age 21. In the next three years, she became the adult industry’s first superstar, making about 107 porn films and winning numerous awards. She formed her own adult film production company, got a luxury apartment and a Mercedes and dated a number of much older men. Her screen name was Traci Lords.

In 1986, an FBI investigation resulting from an an anonymous tip resulted in her arrest and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of adult films, that were now classified as child pornography and were illegal to sell or own. The government attempted to prosecute the numerous producers of Traci’s films, but the case was thrown out by the courts, who ruled that since Traci had fooled the state of California and the U.S. Government and was never marketed as a “young” girl (21 is “mature” in the adult industry, I guess), the adult industry was not liable.

Many believe that Traci herself revealed her true age. Her classification as an underage “victim” insulated her from prosecution, and the single film her new film company produced during the short time between her turning 18 and being arrested became the only legal Traci Lords production, and combined with her newfound notoriety, made her a huge profit. However, the irate porn industry refused to distribute her films or have anything further to do with her (there were rumors of a murder contract on her head), and so she never made another adult film again. Traci claimed she spent the entire three years as a drugged out victim and was unable to remember any of it. She has since starred in numerous B-movies.

In any case, the usual public outcry provided an opportunity for Congress to Do Something and fix a problem that didn’t exist. Despite a lack of any evidence that the bill could (or has) prevented another Traci, Title 18 United States Code Section 2257 was enacted on November 18, 1988, requiring the adult industry to keep strict records of the ages of their actors on hand at all times.

The growth of the Internet provided an opportunity to avoid the onerous documentation required for the sale of adult content in physical form. Combined with numerous other state and federal regulations, conservative social mores, and a lack of government oversight of websites, Code 2257 was like a welfare bill for online porn and helped to create a multi-billion adult site industry.

Enter 28 CFR Part 75, an amendment to Code 2257 set to take effect on June 23, 2005. The amendment requires that every single adult image or video on the web produced after 1995 has to have the same documentation and paperwork as the distribution networks. Violators face felony charges with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison per violation.

This poses two problems to the online porn industry: First, the majority of their media was never documented in the first place, and is probably impossible to document now – not with enough certainty to risk 10 years in jail. Second, the vast majority of online porn is stolen – that is, copied from other sites.

Understandably, the online porn industry is outraged and rapidly mobilizing political action groups.
Adult companies who rebroadcast their physical media on the web already have the required records, and are keeping quiet, since this regulation will effectively outlaw their competition.

I suspect that the most likely outcome of the regulation will be a massive shift of porn production onto foreign soil – followed by U.S. pressure on foreign governments to impose or enforce their own Code 2257’s. After a number of high-profile sting operations, the porn industry will be divided into relatively expensive productions by companies with a physical presence and shady foreign and domestic outfits who avoid government oversight. The latter will be located with countries with lax or non existent anti-exploitation laws, so the market for underage porn and sex slavery will increase, giving American politicians an excuse to pass ever more regulations.

The primary blame in this counter-productive cycle lies primarily with the consumers of porn, who are too ashamed of their own body to defend their right to enjoy themselves. As one former porn star said, “Until the public admits it watches this and allows itself to be counted, it deserves to have the stuff taken away.”

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One Response to The DOJ goes after porn

  1. Girish Wadwekar

    Hello,
    I am in India and it is biggest market for porn, i am willing to work porn film.

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