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The Rise of the FSC

Lawrence G. Walters
It was Groucho Marx who said, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."

That witticism was the prevailing philosophy in the adult webmaster industry for many years. Adult webmasters are a proud, independent, creative and largely rebellious group who would rather question authority than respect it. So it is no wonder that the many organizing efforts that were attempted within the adult webmaster community ultimately failed. As I've been told on many occasions, organizing webmasters is like trying to herd cats.

Hundreds of hours of professional time and thousands of dollars in seed money earmarked for the creation of webmaster trade organizations has been wasted over the years as webmasters lost interest and turned their attention to more lucrative projects. During that time the industry was prosperous, and there were no threats other than an occasional annoyance causing a momentary dip in profits. Nobody was going to jail, and the feds were busy chasing terrorists and drug smugglers.

But everything changed on May 24 when the news hit: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had finally published the amended regulations implementing Title 18, U.S.C. § 2257. Suddenly, the very survival of many adult Internet businesses was threatened. Suddenly, we were all in this together.

On that day, the adult webmaster community learned what other facets of the adult industry have known for decades: There is strength in numbers. Only a well-organized trade group with legal and political connections could answer the call for help that came from the adult Internet industry. The Free Speech Coalition answered that call.

Even though the FSC had already seen its share of battles - they prevailed in a challenge to federal legislation in Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition - the FSC was not well known to the adult Internet industry before changes to U.S.C. 18 § 2257. It had few adult webmaster members and minimal representation for the online side of the industry on its board of directors. Despite that, the FSC took up the charge on behalf of an industry that until now had not supported it and assembled a team of lawyers to brainstorm a legal offensive and simultaneously engaged a contingent of trial attorneys to file suit on its behalf. As news spread of the need to join the FSC in order to be protected by its litigation efforts, adult webmasters flocked to the trade group en masse. The FSC was transformed overnight into the industry's largest adult webmaster trade group.

Adult webmasters now make up the largest percentage of FSC members compared with the other segments of the adult industry represented by the coalition. This odd turn of events created a unique opportunity for the adult webmaster community to do what it could never do in the past: organize.

Trade Group By Choice
For better or worse, the FSC has become the adult Internet industry's trade group of choice. Today the adult webmaster community finds itself in apparent control of an organization that has the power to benefit the industry tremendously. But there is still dissension. There are those in the industry who resent being forced to join a group merely to avoid imminent criminal prosecution under a law of questionable validity. Others resent being forced to join a group made up primarily of representatives from other facets of the industry.

These concerns should not undermine the greater common good that can be achieved by maximizing the leverage and influence adult webmasters now wield within the organization. Adult webmasters already realize that the Internet is the future, and that they are the heirs apparent to the rights to sexually titillate the world for generations to come. They must now stand up and accept the responsibility that comes along with power, and much of that can be accomplished by organized lobbying, strategic litigation and public outreach activities. Just ask the video game, music recording and mainstream film industries, each of which has its own strong trade association.

At this time in history, adult webmasters have the undivided attention (as short as it may be) of millions of viewers. Each website member is a potential ally in the battle against governmental censorship and abuse of political power. Each member can influence public opinion, change minds and impact the result of political races. In many ways, that final piece of the puzzle - which has been lacking for so long - has finally fallen into place. Now all it takes is a bit of organization. Wait until the world sees what we can do now.

Lawrence G. Walters, Esquire, is a partner with the law firm of Weston, Garrou, DeWitt & Walters, with offices in Orlando, Los Angeles and San Diego. Walters represents clients involved in all aspects of the adult industry. You can reach him at Larry@LawrenceWalters.com, www.FirstAmendment.com or AOL Screen Name: "Webattorney."

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