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XBiz News: 09-25-03

Stephen Yagielowicz

This week’s XBiz News wrap up focuses on happenings in the world of Internet legislation, covering the DOJ’s 49 New Obscenity Cases, California’s new ‘No Spam’ law, and an overview of British porn laws:

No Spam for Californians|
California’s embattled Governor, Gray Davis, has signed legislation outlawing the sending of most unsolicited commercial e-mail (better known as UCE or “spam”) to or from residents of The Golden State.

According to Los Angeles Democratic State Senator Kevin Murray, “We are saying that unsolicited e-mail cannot be sent and there are no loopholes.” Murray, one of the bill’s sponsors, is serious, as the legislation provides for fines of $1,000 per unwanted email, up to a total fine of $1 million per spam campaign.

While most state laws that are designed to regulate spam focus on deceptive marketing practices, but still allow properly identified, non-deceptive mailings, the California bill places the onus on the sender to not only determine if the recipient is a California resident, but also whether or not the recipient requested to receive any commercial mailings from the sender.

California’s Department of Consumer Affairs Director, Kathleen Hamilton, stated that “There will be a focus to make sure that once this law is in effect that advertisers abide by it so consumers and businesses are free from unsolicited spam,” declaring the state’s intention to enforce the new law which will take effect on January 1, 2004. And don’t think that the state will not have the resources to effectively combat spam, as this legislation allows suits to not only be brought by the state, but by individual consumers as well.

DOJ Prepares 49 New Obscenity Cases
To date, the US Department of Justice’s recent obscenity prosecutions have targeted only the most extreme of hardcore pornography suppliers, but all of that’s about to change, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently preparing forty nine new federal obscenity cases.

According to Andrew Oosterbaan of the DOJ's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, “Obscenity enforcement is a priority for the Department,” his statement heralding the continuance of a long anticipated increase in federal obscenity law enforcement actions. While Oosterbaan would not deal in case specifics, he claimed that “Some of the Department’s biggest cases revolve around producers and distributors involved in more so-called ‘mainstream’ material” – a substantial change from the Clinton administration’s relaxed prosecutorial focus.

Congress is also getting in on the act, with Orrin Hatch (R-UT) about to commence hearings on the DOJ’s progress regarding obscenity prosecutions, compelling Oosterbaan to ensure his department’s success in bringing about an end to illegal pornography. Operating in a global marketplace, it’s always quite difficult to stay on top of the pertinent legalities from one jurisdiction to another...

British Laws Regarding PC Porn
Operating in a global marketplace, it’s always quite difficult to stay on top of the pertinent legalities from one jurisdiction to another, an issue that can also have serious implications for travelers who may have illegal pornography on their computers – whether they know it or not. This ‘illegal’ porn may have been collected where it is ‘legal,’ or may have been introduced to your system through advertisements such as spam email or pop-up ‘console’ ads, or even by ‘friends’ and family using your computer; once again, with or without your knowledge.

Regardless of how it got there, many localities have laws now requiring computer service technicians to report anything they – in their own judgment – consider to be ‘illegal’ pornography. A chilling thought the next time your hard drive crashes and you find yourself bringing your PC in for repairs. And what if this happens, or you’re screened at Customs, while you’re visiting England? While there are many places that are far less tolerant, unless you have actual child pornography on your computer, you should be ok.

According to Detective Inspector Terry Jones of the Greater Manchester Police Department’s Abusive Images Unit “A person in the UK can lawfully possess any form of sexually explicit material on their computer other than indecent images of children under 16.” Jones went on to add that “Most pornography involves consensual activity among adults. The material we target is mainly young children and toddlers... It's a world apart from most of the material that you see on the Internet as far as the law is concerned.”

For those who are worried about having illegal child pornography on their computers after having received unwanted advertising from these sites, Detective Inspector Jones was reassuring “We make a common sense judgment about the context of material. A PC provides a detailed record of what it has been used for that is very difficult to tamper with. If we make a decision to prosecute, we have to prove that there was an intention to collect the material so we look at the whole process by which it ended up on the computer.” He went on to add that “We're not after people who, through no fault of their own, suddenly find a link popping up on their screen. We're looking for people who methodically search for this material.”

While that’s the good news for adult site surfers and unintentional spam recipients, the news is not so good for adult Webmasters and online marketers, as distributing pornographic images from England, either via e-mail or distributing them online is prohibited by the Obscene Publications Act, which makes it a crime to publish any material that could “corrupt or deprave” that material’s recipient. Even forwarding an e-mail or pornographic image to report it to the authorities might be considered a violation, though it’s doubtful that any prosecution of such a case would occur.

Stay tuned for another news report from your Industry Source ~ Stephen

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