June 24, 2005 10:25 AM PDT
Sex sites win reprieve from new federal rules
The Free Speech Coalition, an adult-entertainment trade group, and the U.S. Department of Justice reached an agreement Thursday afternoon that the government will not begin enforcing the regulations, which expand existing rules to cover online material, until Sept. 7. The expanded regulations had been scheduled to take effect for all sex sites June 23.
The deal applies only to those registered with the coalition by 2 p.m. PST on June 25, leaving unregistered sites potentially vulnerable to the new rules. Current members have until Monday to confirm the names of their businesses with the coalition, which will submit a confidential list to a court-appointed special master on Wednesday.
The rules appeared in late May in the Federal Register, announcing that Internet sites would be tacked on to the list of adult media, including magazines and videos, already subject to record-keeping laws under the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988.
The expanded rules require both producers and "secondary producers"--in this case webmasters--of adult content to keep and provide extensive documentation about their performers, including legal name, date of birth and copies of documents bearing a photo ID. Secondary producers do not, however, include film or video processors, Web hosts and ISPs, or those who engage in "mere distribution," according to the Federal Register notice.
The government's rationale is that "the identity of every performer is critical to determining and assuring that no performer is a minor."
The record-keeping rules require companies to maintain the relevant information for seven years and, if the company goes out of the adult-entertainment business, for another five years afterward.
The expansion drew ire from the adult-entertainment industry, as the Free Speech Coalition filed suit against the DOJ with the U.S. District Court in Denver earlier this month. The coalition charged in its complaint that the expanded rules would "jeopardize the privacy and safety of adult actors and actresses." While stating that the coalition is "adamantly opposed to child pornography," it added that the "onerous record-keeping system" would unfairly limit First Amendment rights for adults.
The coalition also deemed the "secondary producer" requirement unnecessary and griped about the short time frame the DOJ had given for compliance. It continues to push ahead with its litigation.
"While we remain optimistic regarding our ultimate success in the litigation, the FSC encourages everyone to try to comply with the law to the extent that it is possible," Michelle Freridge, the coalition's executive director, said in a press release.
The district court will hold a preliminary injunction hearing Aug. 8, when a judge will decide whether to issue a further injunction.
News of the expanded regulations prompted some sites, such as Rotten.com's "mild porn" affiliates, to shut down out of fear that they wouldn't be able to keep up with the bookkeeping requirements. One such site lamented in a note on its home page, "If you think this country is free, you are sadly mistaken."
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