Well it Happened

Well, It Happened

June 23 has come and gone. A number of companies spent an outrageous amount of time and money getting their records in order much more quickly than was appropriate. A few companies shut their doors entirely. A few others simply ignored the hullablaoo and decided to wait and see.

The most interesting result was the ruling on the case brought by the Free Speech Coalition and a couple of co-plaintiffs against the regulations. As a result of their case, the justice department is prohibited from demanding the records of any company which is a member of the FSC, or a co-plaintiff in the case, until August.

What's amusing is that they are also prohibited from requesting a list of the member companies.

If there is a company they want to investigate, the justice department must submit the company name to the judge, who can check against a sealed listing to determine whether the company in question is a member of the FSC. If so, the investigation will need to be suspended until August.

As you might expect, this has resulted in a rush to join the FSC--which is not a bad idea in any case--but I can't imagine how such a ruling was allowed. It seems to me that the ruling sets a precedent appropriate for any company which has its records examined before the August date. After all, there is no such thing as a special protected class of businesses in this great country of ours. If one group wins the right to some extra time for record management, then that right is automatically accorded to all others.

Either way, I wouldn't want to be associated now with any company whose records are not maintained according to the new regulations. I agree that it was unfair to set such a short deadline for compliance. I agree that the notion of a five to ten year jail term for failing to keep records in the proper format, regardless of whether the information itself is being kept or whether it indicates that any participants were under age, is unconstitutional. I also agree that there is a question whether there are issues regarding the right not to self-incriminate.

But part of being a citizen of a country is adjusting yourself to the local laws. Happily, as a citizen of this particular country, we also have the opportunity to make changes to those laws when they go further than we are willing to adapt.

I mean, it's either that, or move to Canada, right?

Moody Convention

Moody Convention
The mood is getting a little more somber in the adult entertainment world.

I just spent the last weekend hosting a booth at Erotica-LA, and I met a lot of nervous people. To those who have been in the industry for a while, the current change in regulations around record keeping rings a familiar tone. It is likely the first of several coordinated moves aimed at tightening in the reins on our freedom of expression, freedom to do business, and freedom for adults to see what they want.

To wander around the floor of the convention as a customer, you might not think of it as a conservative crowd. The racks of discounted adult DVD's were stacked high, the latest high-tech sex toys for today and tomorrow were on display, and the performers were out signing autographs for their long lines of devoted fans.

But even though the focus of attention was ostensibly sexual, there was an almost puritanical sense of reserve in the air. The most revealing and eye-catching costumes were being worn by visitors. The displays and banners were nothing you couldn't see on any subway train, television commercial, or billboard across the country. Even the erotic dance shows on the stages failed to generate more than a few polite hoots from the audience.

When I talked with folks who worked at the different companies, I got a pretty consistent story. We were all glad to be there, hanging out with others from the industry, but there was a sense of foreboding. The first shoe is scheduled to drop on June 23, and nobody knows how many feet this bureaucratic monster has.

The recent changes in the regulations stimulated a renewed interest in the few civil rights groups which have made a name by speaking for the adult entertainment industry. But as in all times of uncertainty, more of the chatter was based on fear than anger. Some folks whispered in confusion about whether any lawsuits brought on behalf of the members of those groups would be applied to companies who did not contribute to one or another. Some wondered whether companies who joined would be the first on the inspection lists when the new regulations start being enforced.

I thought the 1950's were over.

I also heard stories about companies who are throwing in the towel this month, rather than face the costs and insecurities of inspection. One example is Bound and Gagged, an admittedly extreme provider of fetish content for several years. Visit their homepage while you still can to see the compelling message from the founder about his reasons for closing down.

CyberBears and Salamander Studios are fortunate to have had the foresight to prepare for the coming changes, so we won't be going anywhere. Our records are on file here and with all of our distribution partners. Our performers have all agreed up front that their personal information is part of the company records, and they all understand that it can and will be shown to the appropriate authorities upon request.

The indignity of that request, in the United States, in the 21st century, is just something else we'll be able to tell the next generation about when their time comes.

Let's hope it's another 50 years at least.

The Means and The End

The Federal Register published new guidelines this week concerning the record keeping requirements for producers of adult materials. The reasons for these rules were very clearly explained in the text of the requirements: to prevent children from being exploited as performers in sexually explicit productions.

That's not a bad reason to do something. Nobody who is not mature enough to consent to a sexual act should be exploited for adult entertainment. Those producers who would attempt to do so should not be excused from responsibility for their actions. But the response which has been adopted may be out of proportion to the problem.

The issue here is that the requirements create an unreasonable burden on the producers, and expose legitimate businesses and performers to undue attention and potential harrassment. This will make smaller companies less competitive, and stifle innovation in the industry. The net effect of these rules in the United States can only by the consolidation of adult production in the hands of the largest and most well-protected companies, and the offshoring of child pornography.

I can't believe that this is what was intended by the drafters of this legislation.

It seems more plausible that these rules are intended to discourage the growth of the adult entertainment industry as a whole. The very implication that the industry cannot self-police, and must therefore be subject to special regulations, is evidence of the disdain in which adult entertainment producers are being held.

There are criminals in every industry, and adult entertainment is no exception. I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of us in this field would be very willing to suffer a good deal of inconvenience to help identify and stop those who would abuse children under the guise of free speech. Clearly, we already have made great efforts in this direction, and most of us continue to exceed federal requirements when it comes to record keeping and verification.

However, this rule enforces public inspection and exposure of confidential information in a way which is burdensome and inappropriate. If I were not a legitimate producer, existing rules would be more than sufficient to expose my violation of the law, and lead to my arrest and conviction. But since I am a legitimate producer, the new rules serve only to increase my paperwork, undermine my privacy, expose my industry to public ridicule, and challenge the confidentiality of my performers and colleagues.

Leave alone for the moment the fact that the new regulations require all performers to offer documentation that they are U.S. citizens. Forget that these rules do not apply to producers of some of the most violent and explicit content, simply because it is computer-generated and does not show actual human beings (of any age) engaged in sexual intercourse. Ignore the absence of any forward-looking approaches to improving documentation technology beyond the paper files in the producer's main place of business. The new regulations are a not-so-subtle reminder that conservatives are much more aware of how things appear than how they actually work.

There is also underage drinking, without any record-keeping requirements in bars or liquor stores. Perhaps that should be stopped. Similarly, there is the sale of cigarettes to minors without documentation anywhere in the United States. There are cases of child abuse in the home, in the school, in the church, and in the workplace, none of which has resulted in draconian documentation requirements.

And there is child pornography. Not a lot, but any is too much. Although it is not as prevalent as any of these other issues, it does make for splashy headlines. It certainly must be stopped as well.

Do we really think that circumscribing our freedom to share and enjoy adult entertainment among adults will solve the problem?

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