That was the comment from pornographer Jim McAnally (careful how you type that), who told Wired mag that “more than half of hard-core websites, including some of his, will have to dump significant numbers of photos and videos” because of a new law requring smut peddlers to keep detailed records, including provenance information, with respect to their dirty pictures. The purpose of the law is to ensure that images of minors are not used in pornography (this being essentially the only aspect of pornography that is against the law in the U.S.).
I was first alerted to this when a well-known blogger, a lawyer, sent an inquiry my way. It was from someone pushing the panic button because he thought “every image” used “on the Internet” had to have this record-keeping taken care of. Neither I nor the referring lawyer-blogger had heard of this, and we’re pretty hard on the First Amendment trail. Well, it turns out that neither of us is on the smut trail, and hadn’t realized (and this gent hadn’t told us) that “on the Internet” meant “on the porn Internet.”
I’m not shedding any tears. I thought we were all for bureaucratization of “victimless crimes” such as prostitution and recreational drug use? The Supreme Court has gone from ruling that (unlike, say, political speech under McCain-Feingold, which may be freely regulated) pornography is First Amendment-protected “speech,” as long as it’s not “obscene” by “prevalent community standards,” to abandonment of any standards — and recognition that there’s no such thing as local communities any more, I guess — in its obscenity jurisprudence. On the other hand, if there’s a way for Congress to “constitutionally” throw up a speedbump to an industry that makes all other conceptions of exploitation a joke, which is destroying lives and sensibilities in a way and at a rate that the mainstream media will never report, and which is essentially unregulated — what the heck.
Query: The next time the Supreme Court decides to look at worldwide contemporary legal and moral standards in interpreting the Constitution of 1789, maybe it will explain why it only looks to “enlightened” (i.e., liberal) views and not the benighted regulation of speech and pornography experienced by probably most of the people on earth (i.e., all Muslims and those in China and in much else of Asia). I’m not suggesting we adopt the Saudi approach, but I would like to know the rationale whereby we don’t.
UPDATE: There’s more than one way to skin the “world law” cat — but inside out is a dumb way.