At the core of the Flava Works claim is the assertion that the zoning and adult business licensing provisions that the city is seeking to enforce against the company simply do not apply to the company’s CocoDorm.com website, because those regulations pertain to physical — not virtual — space.
“While CocoDorm has a physical office … its business is actually conducted in cyberspace,” the company said in its complaint. “That is, CocoDorm offers live and recorded feeds of sexually explicit conduct to the consuming public via the Internet … [t]here is no evidence that any customer, vendor or supplier of CocoDorm has ever come to the premises … for any purpose.”
In the complaint, Flava Works also takes exception to the city’s claims that the CocoDorm residence has a negative impact on its surrounding community.
“[T]he Internet transmission of images from inside that home do not generate adverse secondary effects of any kind,” the company said in its complaint. “Indeed, the home is indistinguishable from any other home in the community.”
Flava Works also argued that there’s really nothing that unusual taking place inside the CocoDorm, noting that “[g]iven the nature of the human species, it is likely that many, if not all, of the neighbors in the homes surrounding [the CocoDorm property] also engage in sexual activities on a regular basis. Presumably, those sexual activities do not generate adverse secondary effects.”
In wrongfully enforcing the city’s zoning laws against the company, the city seeks to “[a]bridge and restrain the plaintiffs’ rights to free expression” as guaranteed by the1st and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution” as well as Article I, Section 4, of the Florida Constitution, Flava Works asserted in its complaint.
James Benjamin, an attorney for Flava Works, told XBIZ that the bottom line is that the zoning laws the company is accused of violating simply do not apply to the CocoDorm property.
“The essence of it is that a zoning law regulates a piece of land,” Benjamin said. “Zoning involves some set of rules a piece of property has to follow vis-à-vis its next door neighbors. How can they apply zoning to the Internet? Put simply, they can’t.”
Benjamin noted that another, similar adult webcam operation — VoyeurDorm.com — had been subjected to similar legal action by the city of Tampa, and the adult company came away the victor. Despite the nearly identical nature of that case, and the likelihood that this case will play out the same way, Benjamin said he could not get the city to see the likely futility of their actions.
“They didn’t care,” Benjamin said of the city’s reaction when he pointed to the outcome of the VoyeurDorm case. “The city was hell-bent on kicking them out of that house, whatever it took.”
Benjamin said that for the time being, the most the city can do is impose fines against the company for continuing to operate at the contested CocoDorm location.
“The only enforcement is to fine [Flava Works] on a by-day basis,” Benjamin said, noting that the city has already begun those per-day fines. “They can’t close them down without a court order to do so.”
Benjamin said that he’s confident that his clients will prevail, given the similarities to the VoyeurDorm case, and said he thinks it is possible that the city knows this as well but needs to “pay lip service” to local activists who are pushing the case.
“They so badly want these [zoning] laws to apply,” Benjamin said. “But they just don’t.”