2257, four letter word or just a bunch of digits?

In 2004, Congress approved a new requirement that the U.S. Attorney General must deliver an annual report detailing federal prosecutions under 2257. Attorney General John Ashcroft testified to Congress that the DOJ had not conducted a single inspection of 2257 records over the previous 12 years.

From that point on, 2257 has been the buzz of concern for webmasters since failure to comply with the 12 year old law meant a felony conviction and five years in jail.

I have been tracking these 2257 issues for the last two+ years and there is such a wide range of responses to 2257, from companies who have spent literally thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of manhours in getting their 2257 documentation in place to webmasters who lifted only a finger to pop the top of their beer.

A good starting point to read up on 2257 is at Free Speech Coalition’s 2257 page (http://www.FreeSpeechCoalition.com).

2257 is quite confusing as many attornies have different opinions of it. Consultation with an attorney over your 2257 requirements should be done. The purpose of these postings is so you don’t waste billable hours asking “what is 2257?” “what is a secondary recordkeeper?” type questions. This is a general and broad overview.

The new additions that Ashcroft amended to 2257 through paysite owners and affiliate webmasters further into the 2257 Record-Keeping status with the elaboration of “secondary record keepers”.

Things have been further complicated by 4472 and I’ll cover that topic later on, as we go through the chronological details of 2257.

The intent of 2257 is to protect children from being used in the production of adult material which was triggered as a reaction to Traci Lord (see First Amendment JD Odenbergers background on 2257 here) who was fifteen at the time of her public debut as adult entertainment (porn) model.

For some reason, Congress felt that children would be sucked into the adult entertainment industry to create child pornography movies and images. This CP content does exist and has existed as far back as hammer and chisel days. Pedofiles have been taking snapshots and trading them around for decades and made easier by the use of BBS and then internet. CP is a serious issue where children are being abused and exploited, but the evidence has shown that the online adult entertainment industry does not participate in such activity and even has gone so far as to sponsor Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (formally named Adult Sites Against Child Pornography. ASACP.org has been in existance for ten years and more info about what ASACP has done and is doing, can be found at their website asacp.org.

What you need to know….

If you are filming a model (or have hired someone to shoot on your behalf), you are a Primary Record Keeper. This means you have some pretty big responsibilities to comply with the requirements of 2257. It used to be that websites would license content from content providers like Zmaster and Falcon Foto.

These days, more and more websites are shooting their own content and finding themselves as Primary Record Keepers. The Video side of the adult biz has been paying attention to 2257 for a long time. They have established record keepers, they put up their 2257 statements on video, etc. The internet side is more of a wild-west mentality and have been very much behind in addressing this 2257 law that requires documentation. As a primary record keeper, you are required to keep records for five years. There are many other responsibilities and its best to review all of them with an attorney. If you run a website (free or pay) and you present content that is “sexually explicit” as defined by 2256 (basically anyone or anything sticking into another person), then you are a Secondary Record Keeper.

Prior to Ashcrofts changes and additional bills, the Secondary Record Keeper had to keep track of where they acquired their content from. Sounds simple enough, but so many have failed in this bookkeeping requirement by simply listing (and sometimes copy/paste from another site) to list content producers used on the website on the 2257.html page.

It is quite common amongst websites to think that their 2257.html page is all that is needed. The issue with Secondary Record Keeper requirement is can you, the webmaster, identify where any specific image or video came from?

If the DOJ believed that an image on your website was underage, they would ask you where did you get that image? The answer of go look on your 2257.html is not the right answer, since both you and they do not know which content producer that picture belongs to. The right answer is to be able to answer back that the image/video came from a specific content producer and that the contact info for that content producer (ie. the Primary Record Keeper) is on your 2257.html page.

The reason most webmasters have failed in this responsibility is because they acquire images/videos from multiple sources and throw them into a gallery (and of course not understanding their 2257 responsibilities).

Affiliate webmsasters who receive content from paysites fall under this secondary record keeper responsibilities as well (for images that are “sexually explicit”).

I have been suggesting to webmasters that they tag folders or filenames with some kind of code that allows them to understand where the image came from. This is useful not only for assisting in 2257 compliance, but if there were ever an issue involving copyright infringement or licensing, that you would be able to identify the source of the content.

For those that resemble my comment about just throwing in different sources of content, what some sites have done is physically gone back to catalog all the images and identify where they came from. This is both an expensive and time-consuming step for which some companies have done, and others have not.

Ashcroft’s new changes as well as 4472 have subsequently made things more complicated and more burdensome and that will be the subject of an upcoming post.

Fight the 411 on 2257!

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