educational

Legal Update: July, 2004: 2

In the conclusion of this month's legal update, noted first amendment attorney Larry Walters takes a look at the latest online sex and gaming news, porn sites around the world, and other important issues facing adult Webmasters today...

Sex News
John K. Coil admitted in a plea deal to mailing fraudulent tax returns and transporting obscene materials, specifically the video: "Nympho Bride." Prosecutor Tim Gallagher said, "It's not that it portrays sexual conduct; it's that it portrays it in a patently offensive way." John A. Coil, his son, admitted to making false statements on his tax return. They held corporations in different names in order to avoid paying taxes, to hide income, and to insulate them from police enforcement. The federal case dismantled most of the adult empire Coil had built over the last three decades. The United States’ government initially wanted to seize 58 properties located in seven states and estimated at about $9.7 million, but plea negotiations led to only 45 Texas properties being confiscated, including homes, office buildings and approximately 24 adult video stores. John K. Coil’s wife and daughter and three others have also entered a guilty plea to tax fraud or evasion, but he faces the harshest sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Jenna Lewis, a contestant on Survivor, was caught engaging in various sexual acts in a home video, which was filmed on her wedding night with her new husband, Travis Wolfe. The couple eloped to Las Vegas after knowing each other for only six weeks. The Internet site selling the video does not say how the video was acquired. The lawyers representing the couple are attempting to stop distribution of the videotape. If Lewis did not provide the tape to the site and the tape is truly authentic, Lewis will join other celebrities, like Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson, whose private sex lives went public due to someone stealing their home videos. An invasion or privacy suit brought by Paris Hilton against an Internet company that distributed video of her having sex with an ex-boyfriend, was recently dismissed by a Los Angeles judge. Florida-based Kahantani Ltd., was a party to the $30 million lawsuit over the notorious 45 minute video that circulated on the Internet involving Hilton, who claimed the video had been “intended only for personal use.” Hilton asked the judge to dismiss her lawsuit against the Internet company, but she reserved the right to refile the suit. The suit’s dismissal was part of Hilton's "litigation strategy," her lawyer Heather McCloskey said.

Online Gaming Sites
Nielsen/NetRatings tracked the Internet activities of more than 46 million users in the United States that participated in Internet gaming and released a report finding that online gaming is the stickiest content on the Web. Kaizad Gotla, an Internet analyst for Nielsen/NetRatings, said, "Ranging from sites that offer original games to content sites that offer the latest information on popular console and PC games, the gaming industry's presence online is indisputable." Astonishingly, the report shows that middle-aged females outnumbered teenage boys on the gaming sites. According to Business Week, video games are a bigger business than movies, measured by revenues, and online gaming is contributing significantly to overall industry growth. Another report released by IDC, tech industry data providers, computer-based Internet games had revenues of $450 million in 2003, which is expected to triple to $1.5 billion in 2007. Of course, online gaming sites can raise a host of legal concerns for owners or operators, given various U.S. laws prohibiting gambling in various forms.

Online Porn Sites Mostly Based in Europe and the Pacific
A study released by the Secure Computing Corporation of San Jose, California, which surveyed non-U.S. country suffixes, such as .de for Germany and .jp for Japan, revealed that most online adult sites are based out of Europe and the Pacific, excluding domains ending in .com and .net. The study showed approximately 46 million pornography pages in the top 100 individual country suffixes. The top countries for porn sites were Germany with 10,030,200 porn domains, followed by United Kingdom at 8,506,800, and Australia at 5,655,800. When broken down into region, the survey revealed that Europe led with 28,430,600 pornographic domains, the Pacific had 12,352,600, Asia had 3,193,000, Latin America had 1,048,600, Africa had 389,400, Canada had 283,600, the Caribbean had 255,000, and the Middle East had 77,800. Additionally, the survey showed that almost every country suffix from Europe had a few porn sites, including very small countries.

Legislative Update
Some members of Congress are supporting legislation called the Family Movie Act that would allow DVDs to be "sanitized" through filters for home use without violating the federal copyright laws and without first requiring the consent of studios or directors. The bill awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee, and the Senate has not introduced any comparable bills. The studios and the Directors Guild contend that this bill, by removing dialogue and scenes, can ruin entire films by taking away their meaning.

The movie studios oppose the legislation and consider the bill the most outrageous of a wave of anti-indecency legislation moving through Congress. Included in that wave, a "decency" provision was attached by the Senate as a rider to its annual defense bill, which would increase penalties tenfold for violations of the federal indecency rules. The Senate Bill was approved and would allow the Federal Communications Commission to raise fines from a maximum of $27,500 to $275,000 per violation, up to $3 million a day per broadcaster.

Earlier this year, the House overwhelmingly approved a similar bill, which would raise fines to a maximum of $500,000 per violation, almost ensuring tougher fines will be signed into law.

Say What?
Mark Roberts, the British man who streaked during the Super Bowl with only a thong and an online casino advertisement painted on his body, was found guilty of criminal trespassing by a Texas jury. Roberts admitted that he snuck into the Super Bowl wearing a fake referee outfit. As Roberts said, "If making people laugh is a criminal offense, then they should send me to prison for life."

Last, but definitely not least, several United States and Canadian anti-adult groups including TheFamily.com, Citizens for Families, and United Mothers and Citizens Voice have combined efforts to start their own war on pornography, which includes the implementation of the new Web site, WarOnPornography.com. The Website brags that, "We want to be as effective as possible in protecting and promoting this great institution and know that in order to do so we need to strike at the major root of the problem – pornography – the silent killer of families, individual self-esteem and ultimately the good in our society. It is taking hold of our youth and many adults and locking our society onto a collision course with disaster."

WarOnPornography.com claims, without citing any reliable sources, that nine out of 10 minors between the ages of 8 and 16 have seen pornography on the Internet on accident while doing their homework, that minors between the ages of 12 and 17 are "the single largest group of consumers of Internet pornography," and that Internet pornography is more addictive than drugs, alcoholic beverages, and cigarettes. Additionally, the Website boasts that "Pornography knows no borders so there must be a multinational effort in place. We are doing just that. We are establishing an alliance of Family organizations and politicians in both the U.S. and Canada that will pool their resources and become the largest and most influential force in the War on Pornography." Who was it that said recently, you can’t declare war on a noun?

Lawrence G. Walters, Esquire is a partner with the law firm of Weston, Garrou & DeWitt, with offices in Orlando, Los Angeles and San Diego. Mr. Walters represents clients involved in all aspects of adult media. The firm handles First Amendment cases nationwide, and has been involved in much of the significant Free Speech litigation before the United States Supreme Court over the last 40 years. All statements made in the above article are matters of opinion only, and should not be considered legal advice. Please consult your own attorney on specific legal matters. You can reach Lawrence Walters at Larry@LawrenceWalters.com, www.FirstAmendment.com or AOL Screen Name: "Webattorney."

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