The Midterm Elections
It is difficult to overstate the importance of the midterm congressional elections in 2006 to the adult entertainment industry. In the past five years there has been a trend in the Republican-controlled Congress to enact more and more overtly hostile anti-adult industry legislation. If the Republicans maintain control over Congress, it is likely that this trend will not only continue it will accelerate. Moreover, if Republicans maintain control over the Senate in 2006 and one of the remaining non-conservative justices of the Supreme Court leaves the bench, it is reasonable to expect that a conservative appointee will fill the vacancy. Should this confluence of events occur, the resulting overwhelming conservative majority on the Supreme Court could, over a period of years, effectively destroy the adult entertainment business as we know it in this country.
The Republican Party, however, is currently vulnerable. It is inextricably tied to an increasingly unpopular administration facing increasing public discontent over the war in Iraq, high oil prices, increasing inflation and lack of border security. Adding to Bush's negatives is a growing generalized sense that the war on terror has been mismanaged leaving the homeland unacceptably vulnerable more than four years after 9/11. Many of the administration's critics, including some conservatives, are now expressing a growing concern that our civil liberties may have been unlawfully violated by an incompetent and corrupt administration that has lost the trust of a majority of Americans.
What does all this mean for the industry? If current polls are correct, the administration is losing some of its core support. In midterm elections, this often translates into low voter turnout. Consequently, as things currently stand, the Republicans could lose one or both houses of Congress. Now, you might think that given the consequences of two more years of a Republican-dominated Congress, Republican political vulnerability in 2006 might be a good thing. Well, maybe not entirely, at least not in the short run.
There is one issue that always seems to get the Republican base energized: family values. Unfortunately, the anti-porn zealots, particularly in the religious right wing of the Republican Party, have effectively conflated the concepts of family values and hostility toward all forms of erotic adult entertainment. Consequently, the adult entertainment industry should be prepared for the possibility that the Republicans running for office in 2006 might try to deflect some attention from the administration's failures by attacking "the problem of pornography."
You can see this strategy in operation by Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., who is perhaps the most vocal legislative proponent of the scientifically unsupported view that adult entertainment is somehow physically and socially harmful. Before you dismiss this concept as too wacky for normal people to believe, consider the fact that Oprah Winfrey is now dedicating shows to the problems of "porn addiction." Go figure.
It is possible that in the future, we will look back on 2006 as the year adult content seemed to explode into several new content delivery platforms all at once, beating non-erotic content to the punch on those platforms, much as it did in the early Internet days. In fact, not since that time have I felt that there was so significant an increase in new distribution channels for adult content due to new technologies.
For example, I expect that Apple's Video iPod will rapidly become one of the dominant means of consuming adult content in 2006. In fact, some adult industry's iPod content pioneers such as Red Light District, Elegant Angel, Digital Playground and Vivid are already producing high-quality content specifically for viewing on the Video iPod.
But iPods will not be the only new products to significantly impact the industry in 2006. This year will also see the beginning of high-definition DVD production and distribution, serious IPTV products and services, and the beginning of the era of adult-oriented computer games.
As adult content quickly moves into all the new markets created by iPods, high-def DVDs, IPTV and computer games this year, the industry can also expect a significant backlash from religious and conservative groups and, of course, certain senators and representatives running for office in 2006.
I fully expect to hear that these interests will demand that distribution of adult content into new media such as iPods or adult computer games should be stopped or tightly controlled by new legislation needed to, of course, "protect children."
Another recent trend I am glad to say I expect will accelerate in 2006 is the production of high quality adult features. It is ironic that as the industry is increasingly under attack for producing allegedly physiologically and emotionally harmful material, it is producing some of the best and most artistic cinematic work in its history.
For example, motion pictures like Digital Playground's "Pirates" and Red Light District's "Darkside" are examples of a new genre of entertainment that functions both as hardcore erotica and a great, high-quality movie that is entertaining from end to end.
All in all, 2006 looks like it will probably be a very interesting, very exciting, but also a potentially very dangerous year for the industry.
My basic advice for 2006 is to stay informed, follow the industry news, be prepared, evaluate your circumstances to be sure you are in compliance with the law, and if your not, get compliant.
If you haven't already realized it, this is a serious business with serious enemies.
There is a global Culture War being waged and, unfortunately, sexual permissiveness, sexual depictions and even sexual equality are contentious issues among the combatants. In fact, there are many millions of people who sincerely believe you are to blame for many of the ills of Western Civilization.
But as we enter 2006, I think there also is reason for great optimism. This industry is virtually indestructible.
Adult erotic content is now virtually a worldwide language. No matter what dangers lay ahead for the industry in 2006, you should be confident in knowing that they are all survivable. Moreover, regardless of the number of challenges ahead, there will always be an even greater number of extraordinary opportunities.
Be safe, be healthy, live well, and visualize your optimum world in 2006.
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 www.piccionellisarno.com.