December 30, 2004 4:00 AM PST
XXX, on a small screen near you
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The scenario may not be quite what Apple Computer had in mind for its new iPod Photo music player, but it's almost sure to play out, now that Playboy Enterprises has targeted the device as a distribution channel for its soft-porn empire. This month, the publisher released iBod, a free download for iPod Photo users. The company billed it as the first wedge in a campaign to court mobile audiences, who increasingly tote photo-ready cell phones, MP3 players and other devices.
"Now you can view individual images or entire slide shows in the palm of your hand, at the tap of a button, to beautify your dull commute or just to pass the time in the lecture hall," reads a promotion for the service on Playboy's Web site.
Porn has made its way out of the back alleys and into the nation's living rooms, driving profits and a new-found sense of legitimacy for the industry--but are Americans really ready to rub elbows with porn-wielding commuters on the subway?
Porn after the digital revolution is like sand after a day at the beach: Pretty soon you're finding it everywhere--including on the cell phone of the guy one seat over during that five-hour flight to New York.
Where technology goes, porn follows and makes fat tons of cash. With mobile devices, obscenity laws, privacy and common courtesy will be tested.
Past porn evolutions, such as cable TV and the Internet, offered consumers better privacy than a brown paper bag and more convenience than furtive visits to a neon-drenched XXX video store. By contrast, the latest push for mobility promises to broach potentially incendiary issues over viewing titillating content in public.
Recently, the debate over public porn has focused on proposals to limit Internet content on computers in public schools and libraries, with the latest effort recently rebuffed by the Supreme Court. Now the issue may hit a larger stage, if analyst predictions about growth in the mobile porn industry prove correct. According to IT research group Visiongain, wireless porn profits will hit $4 billion by 2006.
Much of that growth is expected to happen overseas, where third-generation, or 3G, wireless networks, which deliver high-speed Internet access, are further developed than those in the United States. Companies in America hoping to cash in on the porn trend could face additional costs, antiporn advocates said, due to the risks of a legal and social backlash.
"Many people can seem tolerant of obscenity as long as it's kept private, but they don't like it in their face," said Pat Trueman, senior legal council for the Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian lobby group that advocates stronger enforcement of obscenity laws. Trueman's name is well-known in the porn industry for the numerous prosecutions he has brought--often successfully--as the chief of the child exploitation and obscenity section at the U.S. Department of Justice under former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush.
Trueman said FRC hopes to see more attention given to restricting obscenity as the younger President Bush goes into his second term. He added that he believes current laws barring interstate trafficking in obscene material are sufficient to put a serious crimp in emerging mobile porn services, given adequate enforcement.
In-your-face porn sightings could soon escalate, if large numbers of consumers take to smut on a variety of photo-friendly devices, from cell phones to Apple's iPod Photo music player to new portable video players such as Creative's Zen Portable Media Center.
But cell phone users are so mild-mannered...
While good manners and common sense might argue for restraint, cell phone users have not distinguished themselves for courteous and thoughtful behavior in the past.
Cell phones have left a wide trail of bruised feelings--and even plain old bruises--over tactless behavior. Such issues are likely to attract heightened attention, thanks to newly proposed rules that could allow some cell phone use on airplanes.
According to Jacqueline Whitmore, a cell phone etiquette consultant for Sprint, typical complaints include loud conversations in public spaces and phone calls at inappropriate moments, such as the middle of a performance, or even during confession in church. People will no doubt use cell phones to inappropriately access porn as well, she
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