The administration promoted the law to the American public as "an important step forward in our nation's efforts to protect those who cannot protect themselves" and "a clear message across the country that those who prey on our children will be caught, prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law."
By all accounts most Americans should fully support the stated objectives of the Walsh Act. After all, what sane person could possibly object to a law that assists in the capture and punishment of pedophiles, child pornographers, child abusers and murderers of innocent children?
Most Americans first learned about the Walsh Act through the media coverage associated with the bill's signing ceremony, which included an appearance by John Walsh of the television show "America's Most Wanted." The event was planned in advance to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the abduction of Walsh's son, Adam, in whose honor the act was named. However, despite all the coverage, what most Americans did not learn is that conservative legislators had quietly included a number of provisions in the middle of the voluminous new law that have virtually nothing to do with child exploitation or child pornography but will dramatically change the landscape for regulation of adult entertainment in this country.
Sections 501-506 of the Walsh Act contain provisions that dramatically amend the federal record keeping and labeling laws set forth at 18 U.S.C. §2257, as well as the obscenity laws set forth at 18 U.S.C. §§ 1465 and 1466.
The result is a sweeping new set of regulations, unprecedented in scope and effect, with which virtually every segment of the adult entertainment industry must now contend.
The provisions that specifically target the adult entertainment business were inserted into the Walsh Act and passed by Congress without hearings and without debate. Now this may seem to you less than democratic, particularly for a country whose foreign policy is directed, in part, to exporting democracy and freedom of expression to oppressive regimes in the Middle East. Nevertheless, ramming through legislation without any opportunity for comment by those most affected, while uncommon for every other regulated industry, is the norm when it comes to enactment of legislation affecting the adult entertainment business. In fact, the original 2257 law was similarly enacted without hearings or debate, becoming law as a part of omnibus anti-drug legislation in 1988.
But conservative legislators know that laws curtailing freedom of expression are generally unpopular with Americans. Therefore, when it came to consideration of the anti-adult entertainment provisions of the Walsh Act, our esteemed representatives knew that an honest and open debate would no doubt have quickly revealed to anyone with a pulse that those provisions would result in unprecedented violations of free speech and privacy rights and have a negative impact on literally millions of Americans who work in the adult entertainment industry or consume its products.
The anti-adult entertainment provisions of the Walsh Act were drafted and passed at the behest of the religious right wing of the Republican Party. They are really nothing more than another in a long line of attempts to break the back of the adult entertainment industry. The reason for such animosity is simple: Religious fundamentalists deeply believe that the creation, publication and consumption of erotic materials is immoral and does not comply with their view of what American culture should be. Interestingly, religious conservatives are strong supporters of our global battle with terrorists who similarly want to take over governments to force the reshaping of cultures to fit their intolerant fundamentalist views. It is ironic that the same religious conservatives often describe these folks as "a danger to civilization."
It also is interesting that when it comes to punishing creators and distributors of erotic materials, these two groups look frighteningly similar. Both the radical Islamic fundamentalists and the Christian right see nothing wrong with destroying a person's life for selling erotic images, even if the product depicts only willing adults and the product is only sold to willing adults. It is a sobering thought that the only real difference between these extremist groups is the degree of punishment. Radical Islamic fundamentalists execute their pornographers, while our Christian fundamentalist-inspired adult entertainment laws only allow for prison sentences that can incarcerate an offender for life.
Our congressional "leaders" often rail against the cowardly Islamic fundamentalist terrorist practice of fighting from or hiding weapons in homes and mosques and using children and other civilians as human shields. Yet with respect to regulating the adult entertainment industry, our federal legislators often engage in cowardly behavior by hiding their weapons aimed at destroying protected erotic expression in what would otherwise be good legislation. Such was the case regarding the anti-adult entertainment provisions of the Walsh Act. Like so many other adult entertainment laws (including the original 2257 law), the anti-erotica provisions of the Walsh Act were buried within a huge piece of unrelated legislation. Considering the 1st Amendment freedoms and privacy rights at stake, and the fact that our congressional lawmakers all took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, such actions are simply shameful.
But now that the Walsh Act is law, the industry will have to deal with it, one way or another. It is likely that the Free Speech Coalition will challenge both the new and old regulations to remove the 2257 laws from the books, as my colleague Reed Lee has long advocated, "root and branch." But achieving that goal is by no means certain, and the road ahead will be long and difficult. Consequently, until 2257 is stricken, it is critically important that you comply with all of the effective provisions of the law, both old and new.
This is particularly important given the fact that on July 24, Justice commenced 2257 inspections for the first time since that law was enacted nearly 18 years earlier. At the time of this writing, four such inspections are known to have occurred. More distressing is the fact that during one of the investigations, one of the investigators was quoted as saying that the FBI has formed 16 four-person teams to conduct numerous investigations throughout the rest of the year. So, simply put, everyone in the adult industry — from content producers to website affiliates to mobile content providers to DVD duplicators to performers, and even gentlemen's clubs — should now be aware that 2257 is a governmental weapon of prosecutorial mass destruction that is now armed and aimed directly at them.
As the world seems to be unstoppably drifting into World War III, our government wastes money, manpower and other governmental resources on 2257 records inspections and additional 2257 regulations. Perhaps it will bring the religious right some comfort to know that if America loses a city or two to nuclear or biological terrorism, at least the pornographers in those cities had complete and accurate records before they perished.
If you are as angry about the government's misplaced priorities as I am, please visit and pass on the link to DoomsDayCurve.org.
Gregory A. Piccionelli 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.