Seminar: Legal Review Panel

TEMPE, Ariz. — One of the most popular seminars at any industry gathering is the legal panel, and the one presented at this year's Phoenix Forum was no exception to the rule, and indeed proved to be well worth attending, as top industry attorneys and others presented "industry updates and issues that every webmaster needs to be aware of."

Speaking at the seminar were John Flynn, an attorney representing CCBill on DMCA issues, as well as attorneys Greg Piccionelli and Chad Belville – a former prosecutor with experience in contract law, who now handles adult clients in the Phoenix area. Technologist Brandon Shalton, who represents ASACP on 2257 issues, as well as Michelle Freridge of the Free Speech Coalition, rounded out the distinguished panel.

Freridge kicked off the discussion by explaining the relationship between FSC and the law by stating that "It's our mission to protect the industry from oppressive legislation."

Since there are an endless number of legal issues surrounding online adult entertainment, the discussion was quickly focused on the issues involved with starting an adult website.

"When you start a business, the need to protect that business is vital, and well served by incorporation," said Shalton. "And keep a record of where your images came from to ease '2257 compliance. Keeping a spreadsheet with 2257 info tied to image filenames is an excellent way."

As for understanding every aspect of adult site legal issues, Shalton offered sage advice: "You need to at least know what you don't know."

"You need to make yourself into a hardened target," offered Piccionelli, who then went on to explain the 5 basic steps that all webmasters should take in order to make themselves a less attractive target for prosecution. "Make sure that minors can't access adult materials on your site. Don't use extreme content in your members area. Be thoroughly compliant with '2257. Do not unlawfully spam, and be compliant with the Protect Act and its misleading domain names provision." Piccionelli then summed up his advice, by offering the following mantra: "Keep the kids out, keep the kids away."

"Think about your business from a risk management perspective," said Flynn. "Make sure that you have a DMCA policy, and keep all of your policies tight."

"Develop a support system so that as you're developing your business you won't need to reinvent the wheel," opined Freridge, who then went on to impart the importance of becoming actively involved in the protection of the industry, stating "Don't ignore politics – pay attention to what is happening in the courts."

The importance of forming, and then properly running, a corporation was reemphasized by Belville. "Act like a corporation: document all meetings and keep up with all of your filings."

"Make sure that your tax records are in order," offered Belville before recounting how as a prosecutor, if he couldn't convict you on the charge he wanted to, that he would find some other way to get to you.

Finally, Belville finished up with some very practical and simple advice, stating "Don't lie, don't cheat and don't steal..."

The remainder of the allotted time was spent in a question and answer session, where audience members were able to pose specific questions to the panelists. The answers weren't always well received, however, with Piccionelli responding to one attendee "Don't shoot me; I'm only the messenger."