Obscenity Prosecutions Should Be Expanded, Hatch Says

WASHINGTON — Sen. Orrin Hatch went on the offensive against commercial pornography at a Justice Committee hearing Wednesday and said the government should step in and expand obscenity prosecutions.

Hatch grilled U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who gave witness testimony over some of the initiatives his department has been working on at a hearing titled "Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice."

Nowhere in Holder's address to committee members, however, were the words "adult entertainment" or "porn." And that spurred Hatch to focus his energies on adult entertainment. "This particular type of material may virtually guarantee a conviction but it is not the most widely produced and consumed and therefore its prosecution may have very little impact on the obscenity industry."

In the faceoff with Holder, Hatch further said that for years the Justice Department has taken "a misguided and narrow approach to law enforcement" in prosecuting adult companies.

Holder countered that the agency's focus chiefly has been on protecting children.

"We will certainly enforce the laws with the limited resources that we have and go after those cases that I think — as we always do — have the potential for the greatest harm," Holder said.

Diane Duke, the Free Speech Coalition's executive director, told XBIZ Holder's focus on child abuse and child obscenity "is well placed, protecting children from real threats."

"The adult entertainment industry works with a number agencies to assure that filters are in place and easily accessible to filter adult content from minors," she said.

Duke also noted that decisions for obscenity prosecutions might be shifting as porn slowly migrates into mainstream society's cultural appetite.

"Prosecutors are less enthusiastic about prosecuting for obscenity because they realize that our society is becoming more supportive of adults rights to be adults and to access adult materials," she said.

The Justice Department's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force has prosecuted 14 cases since 2005.