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Golden State Jitters: 1

Golden State Jitters: 1

March 8, 2007
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" The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) [is] promulgating new health and safety regulations for adult entertainment industry workers.  "

For at least the past 25 years, Southern California has been the adult video production capital of the world. In fact, at one time the San Fernando Valley, affectionately dubbed "Silicone Valley" by many in the industry, accounted for more than 90 percent of the world's professionally produced porn.

But now the industry is confronting new economic, cultural, technological and regulatory forces that are steadily eroding Southern California's status as the preferred location for adult content production. For example, shrinking profit margins due to a glut of content have caused adult producers to be more cost conscious than ever before. As a result, foreign production of adult content, particularly in such places like Eastern Europe and Brazil, now accounts for a significant and steadily growing proportion of the industry's overall output, chiefly because of the substantially lower production costs outside of the U.S.

But cheaper foreign production costs are not the only reason why so much adult content is being produced outside of California. "Valley" producers and the industry as a whole are now confronting a new phenomenon: the consumer competitor. Adult entertainment has now become such a widely accepted part of our culture that average folks in record numbers are now shooting their own adult entertainment and publishing their homemade content on sites such as MySpace, YouTube and adult analogues like Pornotube. Thanks to inexpensive prosumer video equipment and the distribution power of the Internet, a voluminous amount of relatively good-quality amateur adult content is flooding the Internet from virtually every corner of the globe, and the trend is accelerating with no apparent end in sight.

But despite the fact that social and economic forces are causing more and more adult content to be created outside of California, many believe that the Golden State will always produce a disproportionately large amount of adult content, particularly high-production value works, if for no other reason than because of the highly skilled production talent pool that resides in Tinseltown. Unfortunately, however, now there is a new challenge looming on the horizon that some believe could motivate even the big-budget producers to leave the state.

Regular readers know that several of my recent articles have focused on issues of growing governmental recognition of the adult entertainment industry as a legitimate business. (See e.g., "A 2257 Meeting With the FBI Sparks Hope for a More Reasonable Regulatory Environment," XBIZ World, Dec. 2006.) Unfortunately, when it comes to "morally disfavored" products, such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling, lawmakers only seem interested in either trying to eliminate them by making them illegal (Prohibition in the 1920s, for example) or, if that fails, to overly regulate and tax their creation and sale. It is becoming clear to many, even among those in the Religious Right, that despite innumerable political efforts to kill the adult entertainment industry, adult content in its many resplendent forms is here to stay. While that fact may rightly be viewed as a victory for both the industry and our personal free speech and privacy rights, it may nevertheless turn out to be a mixed blessing for the industry, particularly, I fear, for those who work in the field of adult content production in California, as fire-and-brimstone-spouting evangelicals are replaced by regulation-toting bureaucrats.

New L.A. Health Rules
Case in point: The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (Cal/OSHA) interest in promulgating new health and safety regulations for adult entertainment industry workers.

In October, I was honored to be invited to an unprecedented meeting between industry representatives and government policy makers on the UCLA campus to discuss whether California should promulgate new health and safety regulations for adult content production in California. Titled "Think Tank: Safety of Performers in the Adult Film Industry," the unique gathering brought together a wide spectrum of parties affected by adult film industry performer safety issues, including adult performers, adult entertainment production companies, adult industry health service providers, adult industry news media writers, regulatory agencies, health care providers, physicians and attorneys.

According to the event's organizers, the Bixby Program of the UCLA School of Public Health, the primary goal was to identify consensus positions, if they existed, in order to advise and assist state and local agencies, such as Cal/OSHA in the creation of fair and effective regulations pertaining to adult content production.

Given that most adult industry regulations have heretofore been enacted without any industry input, the "Think Tank" meeting was tantamount to a revolutionary break with the past. Much like the unprecedented meeting between adult industry representatives and the FBI in Washington, D.C., that I had attended only days earlier, the "Think Tank" was intentionally designed by its organizers to spark a candid dialogue among the adult industry, governmental officials and policy makers in hopes of creating a more fair, effective and efficient regulatory environment for adult businesses.

To accomplish their goal of identifying consensus positions, the "Think Tank" organizers took great care to invite a diverse group of participants to ensure that a broad spectrum of opinions on a wide variety of topics would be represented. To that end, the event included numerous panel presentations by government officials, adult industry performers, scientists, physicians, health care workers, attorneys and clergy on a wide variety of topics pertaining to the many health and safety issues facing adult industry performers, particularly those associated with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. At the end of each panel topic, the entire group participated in open and often lively discussions on the issues presented by the panelists.

It was very heartening to see that the adult entertainment industry perspective was well represented at the event. In fact, nearly half of all the "Think Tank" panel presentations were made by adult entertainment performers or adult industry professionals.

For example, a presentation by adult performer Alexxa Smart (also known as Lizzy Law) informed the group that while HIV screening is standard practice in the adult industry for content production in California, industry performers are constantly at risk for contracting other STDs, such as herpes and human papilloma virus (HPV) infections. Smart argued that since it is known that HPV has been causatively linked to potentially fatal uterine and ovarian cancers, the industry should broaden its testing requirements to include HPV and other STDs. To pay for the additional expense of more comprehensive testing, she also called for producer or government subsidization of testing costs for low-income performers.

Another speaker, adult industry legend Dr. Sharon Mitchell, founder and operator of the Adult Industry Medical Heath Care Foundation, made, in my opinion, the most compelling and scientifically relevant of all the statistical presentations of the meeting.

Using data collected by AIM and other sources, Mitchell showed how her organization and the voluntary HIV testing regime she instituted eight years ago has been singularly effective in the prevention of HIV transmission among adult entertainment performers.

Additional presentations were made by other adult entertainment performers and content producers, including Traci Bryant, a.k.a. Anita Cannibal; Bill Margold; Dave Pounder; and Mr. Marcus.

In part two, we'll continue our look at the "Think Tank" meeting and beyond.

Gregory A. Piccionelli, Esq. is one of the world's most experienced Internet and adult entertainment attorneys. He can be reached at Piccionelli & Sarno at (310) 553-3375 or at www.piccionellisarno.com.


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