2257 Public Commentary Period Closes

Ed Palomar
ORLANDO, Fla. — The two-month period for public commentary regarding the Justice Department’s proposed changes to 2257 regulations closed on Aug. 24. The comments, which were solicited by Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Justice Department, had to be submitted in writing and transmitted via email, fax or snail mail.

It is widely believed that Justice’s proposals put more of the onus for the registration of models on the webmasters and secondary producers who use material created by others. Previously, the law was generally interpreted as placing the main responsibility for record keeping upon the content providers and primary producers.

The law firm of Weston, Garrou & DeWitt submitted a 33-page comment to the Justice Department on the deadline day. Lawrence Walters represents adult Internet companies and is a partner with the law firm, which has offices in Orlando, Los Angeles and San Diego. At a legal forum during the August InterNext trade show, Walters presented a PowerPoint presentation on the 2257 proposals.

“We hope that after reviewing the public comments, the Justice Department will revise the problematic, burdensome regulations for the adult industry,” Walters told XBiz. However, the attorney added that he expects Justice “not to have much sympathy for the concerns advanced by adult webmasters.”

Walters went on to say, “The purported reason for the regulations and their intent is to protect children [from appearing in pornography]. But if that’s the focus, lots of the regulations don’t. How does it protect children if a webmaster’s place of business, where the records are stored, has to remain open 365 days a year, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.?”

Walters stated that the proposed regulations could actually increase “safety concerns for IDs floating around to every purchaser of content online.” Driver’s licenses and other forms of identifications often have models’ real names and home addresses.

J.D. Obenberger, of the Chicago-based law firm J.D. Obenberger and Associates, told XBiz that if the DOJ proposals are enforced, “Some Age Verification Services will need seven to nine terabytes of information in order to comply. This would be unwieldy and could cost $100,000.”

Walters stated, “The purpose of the proposed regulations appears to be to impose unreasonable burdens or to trap unsuspecting webmasters. They may be a tool to entrap webmasters who innocently violate the law.”

Ashcroft is perceived to be a religious zealot and anti-civil libertarian who is the legal point man for an anti-porn administration.

“Nobody knows if the proposed regulations are politically motivated. But the war on porn benefits Bush by energizing his religious right base,” Walters said.

Walters and Obenberger concurred that nobody knows for sure when Justice will respond to the public comments that have been submitted. But once the Justice Department publishes the new regulations in the federal registry, webmasters will have a short time to comply.

Walters said that compliance with some regulations, such as the location of disclosure, may take effect on the same day that Justice promulgates the new law. “Webmasters will have 30 days to comply with indexing and the association of URLS,” Walters said.