Adult Retail in Georgia

Alex Henderson
In Georgia, the state Legislature has been considering a bill that could — if it is passed and becomes law — make it considerably more expensive for video retailers to sell or rent adult titles in that Southern state.

Under Georgia House Bill 1553, which was introduced earlier this year, any store that either sells or rents adult titles must obtain a special state-issued license to operate as an adult video store.

The annual fee for the license, according to the Georgia General Assembly's website, would be based on the number of adult video titles that the store plans to sell or rent — and the bill defines adult videos as "photographs, films, motion pictures, movies, video cassettes or reproductions, digital versatile disc, digital video disc, slides, or other visual representations, the central theme of which depicts or describes sexual activities."

Bill 1553 does not seek to limit the number of adult video titles a store can sell or rent, although the stores offering the most titles would be paying the highest fees to the Georgia Department of Revenue. The annual fee for a state-issued license would be $10,000 for each adult title the store sells and $5,000 for each title the store rents. Thus, a video store selling 10 specific adult titles would — under the proposed legislation — have to pay $100,000 annually for a license, and a store renting 10 specific adult titles would be paying $50,000 annually for a license.

The Georgia General Assembly's website states: "The fees paid for the license shall be assessed for the entire calendar year and shall not be prorated or otherwise apportioned." Bill 1553 would affect video stores even if they are selling mostly mainstream titles; if a video store, for example, is selling 95 percent mainstream titles and 5 percent adult titles, it would be considered an adult video store based on that 5 percent and would have to obtain a state-issued adult video license and pay accordingly. Presently, the generally accepted definition of an adult video store in Georgia is a store in which at least 25 percent of the inventory is adult-oriented.

For video retail chains operating anywhere in Georgia, like John J. Cornetta's Love Shack chain in the Atlanta area, each individual store in that chain would be required to obtain a separate state-issued license. Under 1553, Georgia's adult video retailers would still have to adhere to local laws and ordinances governing the sale of erotic videos; the Georgia General Assembly's website notes that "whenever any county or municipality permits or licenses an adult video store, the person who owns the adult video store must also obtain a state license to sell or rent adult videos." Proponents of Bill 1553, according to that website, include several Republicans in Georgia's House of Representatives — among them, Don Parsons and Bobby Franklin of Marietta, Tom Rice of Peachtree Corners, Bobby Clifford Reese of Sugar Hill and Bill Hembree of Douglasville.

In March, the merits of Bill 1553 were debated in a blog on Some bloggers questioned the constitutionality of the bill; one person alleged that 1553 — by making it cost-prohibitive for many retailers to sell adult videos in Georgia stores — would violate the 1st Amendment because it would single out a specific type of expression: erotic, sexually oriented expression.

The Free Speech Coalition (FSC) has been quite critical of Bill 1553. FSC Legislative Affairs Director Kat Sunlove, a veteran of the adult industry, said of 1553, "It's totally unconstitutional and would no doubt be quickly challenged if they were so silly as to pass it."

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