opinion

Clean Up Your Act

Stephen Yagielowicz

Many adult Webmasters focus so much on protecting their First Amendment rights that they pay no attention to their Fourth Amendment protections – and the consequences if they should "lose" them.

Have you ever truly considered just what will happen if you become the target of the much talked about "new wave of obscenity prosecutions" that those of us in the US fear the Justice Department is about to unleash?

While the Fourth Amendment provides certain protections against "unreasonable search and seizure," the federal government's idea of what's reasonable might be different than your own – especially when they're coming to get "an evil pornographer" to make an example of. Remember the famous picture of the SWAT guy pointing the submachine gun at the dude hiding in the closet with lil' Elian Gonzales? The same thing could happen to you while YOU'RE trying to hide in the closet! Keep that picture in mind while reading this article...

This article isn't meant to be taken as legal advice, either, but is simply a friendly bit of advice that just might keep you out of jail – or at least keep you there for less time if the worst happens. Interested? Read on...

Now this article isn't going to discuss the typical legal concerns facing adult Webmasters such as model releases, 18 USC 2257 documents, copyright infringement, deceptive trade practices or mailing porn to Alabama. If you don't know about these issues, then you need to speak to a competent attorney who is well versed in these matters – or be prepared for a knock at the door when big brother comes to take you to task for ignoring or otherwise violating them.

Porn, Taxes, and Shit On A Shelf
It's the "be prepared for a knock at the door" part that this article is concerned with, and while its scope can't be all encompassing, I can easily illustrate my intention by focusing on three factors; porn, taxes, and "shit on a shelf..."

• Porn: It should come as no surprise that many porn producers are also porn consumers. If you're the kind of person who not only works on your own sites but surfs other sites (like the increasingly popular MGPs) and "collects" pics and videos of unknown (and undocumented) origin for "your own personal use" – then you're seriously vulnerable!

When the authorities discover your porn collection (and they will), you will have to answer for it. Sure, you respected the author's copyright and didn't put this material up on your site – but if there's actual or suspected child porn, you have no way of proving that it's not! I assure you that some of the folks you see in the news for "having child pornography on their computer" acquired it "innocently" by surfing "teen" TGPs and other sites. You don't want to be "one of those guys" – even accidentally...

My advice? If you have an existing collection, get rid of it. The 10 CDs worth of Internet porn I had collected over the years made lovely pistol targets. Make sure you suitably destroy yours, too – don't just use them for "coasters." If you really need to download porn, join a site that has a proper 2257 notice and record the information in case you need to prove the material's origin.

• Taxes: They didn't get Al Capone for being a murdering gangster and crime lord, they got him for tax evasion; and since it's that time of year again, it's a good time to mention this. You see, while "they're" looking up your ass with a microscope, wondering just how evil a porn monger you are, and whether or not you're the "right" person to go after, they will be paying close attention to your finances; including your tax returns and other financial dealings – all of which is a much easier process today thanks to the US' "Patriot Act" and our new banking regulations. Got something to hide? They'll find it.

• Shit On A Shelf: This is something that I've commented on before – you shouldn't leave things "lying about" that you don't want the authorities (or your mother) to see. And if they have a search warrant – it won't really matter where you hide it – they'll find it if they're really looking.

Regardless of the reason for their visit, don't believe that the authorities will just ignore anything that happens to catch their eye. Got a rocket launcher under the coffee table? How about that old resinated bong from your college days sitting on your shelf? A meth lab in the woodshed or captives in the basement – it doesn't matter what else you're into; if you shouldn't be in to it, then it's time to clean up your act – or leave porn and make less of a target of yourself...

Speaking of shelves, you should keep your 2257 docs in an envelope labeled "2257" – right by the door, so that they can be presented on demand, without you having to go on some time-consuming "Easter Egg hunt" to find them – while John Q. Law stands there, nosing about...

Being Overly Cautious?
I won't sit here and tell you that you should panic – or that there's really nothing to worry about. The fact of the matter is that a savvy prosecutor will use each and every potential charge he can dream up as leverage against you in an effort to obtain a better plea (from his perspective), or a longer jail term for you – regardless of his actual ability to successfully prosecute and convict you on any charges.

Remember, it will cost you a substantial amount of time, money and energy to defend yourself, regardless of the outcome – or whether or not you even step into a courtroom. "Being right" and "being innocent" doesn't really matter unless you can prove it – despite our legal system's much vaunted "innocent until proven guilty" premise – and that takes money. And your name in the newspaper for all to see...

Of course, many of these concerns and vulnerabilities can be easily mitigated: all you need to do is clean up your act – after all, it's better to be safe than sorry! Take care! ~ Stephen

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