FSC Product Piracy Pilot Program Demo at ANME- Founders Show

July 6, 2014

logo_v3Free Speech Coalition (FSC) welcomes attendees and vendors of the ANME-Founders Show to the Burbank Airport Marriott, July 12-14.

At the FSC booth, staff will have information about the FSC’s new Code of Ethics program, and Porn Guardian founder Peter Phinney will talk about a new pilot program targeting product piracy in the adult novelty marketplace. Prizes and giveaways also will be featured.

“First, we want to thank the ANME show organizers for their generosity, every year, and their support of FSC,” said FSC Membership Director Joanne Cachapero. “We’ve been developing programs with the pleasure products market in mind, so we can bring some value to the table for retailers and vendors.

“The FSC Code of Ethics program features an emblem that can be used on signage, websites, content, packaging and more – to tell customers your adult business subscribes to a code of ethics and standards developed by FSC for better business practices. The COE guarantees improved consumer experiences and conveys a sense of assurance to your customers,” said Cachapero.

Product counterfeiting on mega-websites like EBay and Amazon also is a growing concern for manufacturers and retailers in every area of the marketplace, but especially in adult. Phinney and Porn Guardian have been using advanced technology for years to catch online content pirates. Now, Porn Guardian is using that know-how to stem the growing availability of counterfeit products online.

“Diane Duke at the Free Speech Coalition has graciously helped us launch a pilot program with two Southern California companies, Sportsheets and Screaming O, and we got to work comparing items on offer online with their manufacturers’ catalogue of goods. We were able to confirm that the market was being flooded with counterfeit merchandise, sold as genuine, which of course damages the legitimate brands and violates US and foreign trademark law. Now we can notify the manufacturers of each instance of infringement almost as soon as it happens.”

For more information on either the Code of Ethics program, or on what you can do about product counterfeiting, contact info@freespeechcoalition.com.


FSC Statement on Affirmative Vote by CA Senate Labor Relations for AB1576

June 25, 2014

This morning, California Senate Labor & Industrial Relations Committee cleared AB 1576, the legislation to require mandatory barrier protection use on adult production CA-Senate-Sealsets. The bill will now proceed to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Regarding today’s developments, Free Speech Coalition issued this statement:

“Today’s vote is a slap in the face to adult performers, who have been outspoken in their opposition this bill and have worked so hard to defeat it. In his words and actions, Hall has made it abundantly clear that he knows little about the performers he seeks to control, and respects their opinions even less. He has not worked with them on this bill, and has actively spurned their offers to create an alternate solution that would strengthen comprehensive workplace safety measures while respecting their real concerns about privacy and personal choice.

Supporters of AB 1576 stated again in the hearing that the bill relies on the PASS database for testing and enforcement. That Hall would rely on our private procedures says something both about the strength of our existing  procedures, and the short-sightedness of Hall as to what this bill will cost the state. As the bill approaches appropriations, we suspect that Senators will have very serious concerns about how a private testing system run privately serve as the backbone for government regulation.

We understand that Assemblymember Hall wants a bill for his legacy, but such legacy should not be built on the backs of adult performers.”


St. James Infirmary Joins Opposition to AB 1576 Condom Law

June 18, 2014

SJI_Symbol_Logo_2009

SAN FRANCISCO — The St. James Infirmary is urging California state Senators to vote against the controversial condoms-in-porn bill, citing the potential to criminalize of adult performers and producers, and the consequent weakening of the industry’s testing system.

“We are disappointed that neither Assemblyman Hall nor AHF has ever reached out to performers or the adult film industry to consult with workers’ concerns and how to make a sensible law that actually protects workers rather than harms them,” the group said in a statement. “We urge politicians to vote NO on AB 1576 and invite legislators to craft a policy with performers, health care professionals, and adult industry producers.”

The St. James Infirmary joins a growing number of progressive organizations fighting a bill that would make it a crime to not use a condom on an adult film set. The Harvey Milk Democratic Club, the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, the Erotic Service Providers Union, the Center for Sex and Culture and the Transgender Law Center have all opposed the bill introduced by Assemblymember Isadore Hall.

“The St. James Infirmary has been a crucial resource for adult performers for over fifteen years, and we’re so glad to have their help in defeating this bill, ” says Diane Duke, Executive Director of the Free Speech Coalition. “As a clinic, they are on the front lines of the battle for sex worker health, and are not afraid to stand up to the moral crusaders behind AB 1576.”

Full text of the statement is below.

 

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** Stop AB 1576 from Harming Adult Film Performers
————————————————————

“The St. James Infirmary, a peer-based occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers and our families, opposes AB 1576 and urges California Senate members to vote against it.

This is the third time Assemblymember Isadore Hall and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) have attempted to push a mandatory use of “protective equipment” (e.g., condoms) on a state level, and we hope this is once again defeated and for the last time.

As a clinic that centers itself around harm reduction and workers rights, we believe mandating “protective equipment” along with requiring producers to hold on to HIV and STD testing information is an invasion of performers’ privacy and creates an alarming liability to performers and producers. If this AB 1576 becomes law, every Dick and Jane shooting an adult film will be responsible with upholding HIPAA protected HIV and STD information for performers. The room for error is great and concerning.

AB 1576 is touted as a response to a “public health crisis” that AHF has manufactured. The truth is that there have been no cases of HIV transmission on an adult film set since 2004. A self-imposed industry standard of HIV and STD testing for performers every 14 days has been effective in reducing transmission to incredibly low rates compared to the general public. Because this risk is so small, we question the real motive behind this bill.

We are deeply concerned of the potential criminalization of industry professionals and performers under this bill. If Cal-OSHA places a pornography set under the same standards and scrutiny as a medical setting, the transmission of fluids, whether accidental or not, may carry criminal penalties to producers and performers.

AB 1576 will weaken testing protocol and expose workers to infection. The bill defers to the California Department of Public Health (DPH) and Center for Disease Control recommendations for HIV and STD testing, which has no specific understanding of performers risks. A rapid HIV antibody test detects HIV in most people at 8 ½ weeks, with DPH extending that until 6 months, whereas all major producers now use a HIV viral load test which detects the virus in 7-10 days after contact. Most adult film producers already require full-panel STI testing no earlier than 14 days prior to any sexual shoot.

AB 1576 will drive out businesses, and it already has. The porn industry has had an estimated worth of $6 billion in California. The thousands of jobs it provides to performers, technicians, videographers, cooks, etc., will be lost. Here in San Francisco, we serve many performers and their partners. We are concerned about the unintended consequences of eliminating one of the safest options to engage in sex work.

We are disappointed that neither Assemblyman Hall nor AHF has ever reached out to performers or the adult film industry to consult with workers’ concerns and how to make a sensible law that actually protects workers rather than harms them.

We urge politicians to vote NO on AB 1576 and invite legislators to craft a policy with performers, health care professionals, and adult industry producers that actually provides more worker protection rather the severe problems that AB 1576 will create.”


The 9 Most Outrageous Flaws In AHF’s Performer STI Study

June 12, 2014

The numbers regarding STI transmission put out yesterday by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation are shocking in their duplicity, and the study is shameful in its methodology.

For months, AHF has claimed that its mandatory condom bill, AB1576, was not an attack on the industry or its performers. However, it’s clear from this study that they have no respect for performers themselves, and that their ultimate goal is not to improve the industry, but to shut it down. In his press conference, Michael Weinstein claimed that performers were a threat to public health, and are “leading to the spread of disease outside the industry.”

If AHF wanted to foment a moral panic about porn, this study is a great way to do it. A few points worth bearing in mind as you consider their conclusions.

  • Rather than publishing the study, which would allow the press to examine the numbers and the methodology fully, AHF released it as an infographic poster — less information than you’d get an 8th grade science project. This isn’t data, it’s propaganda.
  • Rather than only using data from the regulated facilities where adult performers test every two weeks, and which would provide a true random sampling, AHF solicited a portion of their participants instead from an STI treatment clinic, which they knew would skew numbers higher.
  • A full 20% of the participants in the study had not shot a single adult film in the past month, making the claim that these numbers reflect workplace transmissions spurious at best.
  • In fact, over 70% of the participants said they didn’t use a condom in their private life, and another 23% said they had exchanged drugs/sex for money. AHF made no effort to distinguish STIs that came from adult film workplaces from those contracted off-set. Furthermore, it fails to mention that any performer who tested positive for an STI at an industry testing center would be prevented from working. Still, in their press release, AHF stated that this study “[confirms] the high STD risk performers face at work.” No, it doesn’t.
  • This abstract, released before the study began, shows that they went into the study looking for a specific result — that adult film performers are a threat to themselves and others — rather than an accurate one.
  • They didn’t get the numbers they wanted on other STIs, so they left them out. The initial proposal for the study stated an intention to study STIs including syphilis and HIV. They only released data on chlamydia and gonorrhea, suggesting that even with their skewed methodology, they couldn’t generate the evidence of the STI danger they wanted.
  • The additional data they released about prostitution and drug use has nothing do with safe workplaces, and everything to do with debasing adult film performers. Because they haven’t released the backing data or even the questions used, no one can even evaluate this for truth, or see how it correlates. There are good reasons this paper hasn’t found a publisher.
  • The data shows that porn performer have access to, and do often use condoms. Even in their own skewed study, almost a third of participants said they had used a condom on an adult film set in the past thirty days, which counters to their oft-repeated claim that performers denied condoms on set, and are “blacklisted” if they request one.
  • This is not the first time that AHF has released data that was flawed and had to be retracted. Or even the second time. In fact, AHF has a long history of using junk science to support political campaigns.

This report treats adult performers like pariahs, and has little to do with workplace conditions. It’s tremendously revealing about AHF true intention, and the lengths they’ll go to push this bill on performers. Wisely, adult performers are familiar with AHF’s tactics and have been vehement in their opposition to AB1576 from its inception. Over 600 performers have signed a petition asking legislators to vote against AB1576, because it will criminalize adult filmmaking and make their working conditions less safe.

It’s also worth noting that in introducing the study, Michael Weinstein of AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that HIV is not his primary concern, STIs are. This is in stark contrast to everything he’s said for years, the people he has put forth at hearings, and the mission of his organization. It seems his own research is telling him what performers and producers have been trying to tell him — there hasn’t been a workplace transmission of HIV in the adult film industry in over ten years.

We look forward to the release of the actual numbers so that we can have an honest discussion about the real risks faced by adult performers, and how to best educate and protect them. We call on AHF to release the methodology and the raw data behind this study.

In the meantime, if you’re curious why performers oppose AB1576, check out this piece in Huffington Post by Casey Calvert.


Statement on the Appropriation Committee’s passage of California State Assembly Bill AB1576 from Diane Duke of the Free Speech Coalition

May 21, 2014

hashtag2Today, Isadore Hall and Michael Weinstein forced a bill on adult performers despite the vociferous opposition of the performers themselves. AB1576 denies performers control of their own body, their own sexuality, and their own privacy. Over five hundred performers have bravely come out in public opposition to this bill, despite Hall’s endless shaming. For the past few month, Hall has portrayed performers as a public health hazard, using discredited studies that read like Victorian pulp novels. This isn’t about protecting performers, this is a morality crusade aimed at driving a legal, regulated business out of the state and underground.

Hall never approached performers to find out what they wanted — he gave them what he wanted. That’s why the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, the Transgender Law Center, the Erotic Service Providers Union, the Center for Sex and Culture and the Adult Performers Advocacy Committee and others joined the Free Speech Coalition in its opposition to a bill that strips performers of vital protections.

This bill will now go to the State Assembly. Make no mistake — we will fight it, and we will win. Hall’s attacks have unified the producers and performers in a way we haven’t seen since the culture wars of the 80s. We can not allow politicians to treat adult performers as disposable, to disregard very real concerns in favor of a paternalistic bill that criminalizes adult film. Hall has never been on an adult film set, he does not know how the industry works, he does not understand the concerns of adult performers — and he does not care. He has what he thinks is a political winner on his hands, and he’ll continue with it until he destroys what he claims he will protect.

It’s worth noting, of course, that AHF and Hall have spent millions of dollars and several years fighting HIV in adult film, despite the fact that there has not been on-set transmission of HIV on a regulated adult set in over ten years. Meanwhile, Hall’s own district has one of the highest rates of HIV mortality in the country, and does not contain one of his sponsor’s clinics. Crusading against porn stars may make for good headlines, but it makes for lousy policy. We didn’t ask for it, but we look forward to this fight.


Adult Performers, Performer Groups Announce Vehement Opposition to Condom Bill

May 19, 2014

AB1576 “shows a total disregard for performers’ autonomy”

Nearly 500 adult performers have signed a petition asking legislators to vote no on AB1576, a bill that many performers say violates their privacy, and is so restrictive that hashtag2it would push a legal industry underground. For the first time, AB1576 would establish criminal penalties for not using a condom in an adult film, require producers to keep a log of a performer’s sexual activities, and force performers to waive their right to medical privacy.

Independent groups representing adult film stars, including the Adult Performers Advocacy Committee and the Erotic Service Providers Union, have joined the 463 petitioners and the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry trade group, to oppose AB1576. The petition will be presented in Sacramento on Wednesday at an Assembly Appropriations hearing.

“This is an insulting and paternalistic bill,” said Lorelei Lee, a performer and one of the bill’s most vocal opponents. “This shows a total disregard for performers’ autonomy and threatens a vital safety infrastructure that we have spent ten years building. AB1576 squanders resources addressing a problem that doesn’t exist. If the bill becomes law, it will, in fact, harm the people it claims it will protect.”

California State Assembly Bill AB1576 is the collaboration between Michael Weinstein, the controversial head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and Assemblymember Isadore Hall, a Baptist minister. It is the third time they have attempted to advance such a bill.

“Performers shouldn’t have to give up control over their bodies,” said Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition. “We are a small community, and not always the most political, but outrage has come from all areas of the industry — gay, straight, trans, fetish, studio and independent — to fight against a bill that criminalizes sex between consenting adults. More performers are signing this petition every day, and we look forward to presenting it Wednesday.”

Nina Hartley, a performer and registered nurse, called AB1576 “a solution in search of a problem,” during testimony before the state Assembly in April and has been vociferous in her opposition to the bill. “There has not been a single case of HIV transmission between performers on a regulated adult film set in over ten years, and yet they treat us like a threat to public health, using shame, sexism and fear-mongering to dismiss our concerns about privacy, discomfort, rights and safety.”

A delegation of performers, including Lee, will be heading to Sacramento on Tuesday to present the petition to legislators in advance of Wednesday’s hearing.


A Message from Performer/Director Lorelei Lee #StopAB1576

May 8, 2014

AB 1576 is otherwise known as the California “condom” bill that would require mandatory use of barrier protection and testing for ALL performers on adult movie production sets. The adult industry opposes this bill because:

  • Industry stakeholders (performers, studios, etc.) have no voice in this bill, which was introduced and is backed by AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
  • Existing industry protocols for self-regulation, which took over a decade to develop, will be destroyed and will likely be replaced with less accurate tests for HIV and other STIs.
  • The performers – who will be most affected by this regulation – simply do not want mandated barrier protection, which includes condoms, dental dams, gloves, face shields and hazardous waste exposure-like procedures.
  • If passed, the regulations will drive adult producers to relocate to Nevada, or to other locations worldwide, where regulation will be difficult if not impossible.

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s performer/director Lorelei Lee speaking out on why she opposes AB 1576.

The bill has passed through two legislative committees and is now on its way to the appropriation committee. If it passes there, AB1576 would go on to be voted on by the State Senate.

If you care about or enjoy adult entertainment, please share this information about condom laws in California. If you tweet, please use #stopAB1576. And if you need information for how to contact legislators, please email info@freespeechcoalition.com.


Free Speech Coalition’s Duke Argues Against Censorship at UK Roundtable

March 7, 2014

uk-british-internet-porn-filter-censorshipFree Speech Coalition president Diane Duke argued forcefully against new UK censorship rules at a London roundtable sponsored by Virgin Media. The discussion, “Switched on Families: Does the Online World Make Good Things Happen?” was prompted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign to censor content at the ISP level. The panel included government representatives, members of the press and supporters of an open Internet. A report on the meeting was printed in the Guardian on Wednesday.

“We applaud the Virgin Media roundtable for taking on a tough issue, and for the Guardian for acknowledging the extent to which these new government-imposed ISP filters can actually harm children,” says Duke. “The filters Prime Minister Cameron supports block sexual health sites, they block domestic violence sites, they block gay and lesbian sites, they block information about eating disorders and a lot of information to which it’s crucial young people have access. Rather than protect children from things like bullying and online predators, these filters leave children in the dark.”

According to a Guardian report, a majority of those participating came away from the panel opposing ISP-level filters. Under the conservative Prime Minister’s directive, internet providers in the UK automatically block any content it deems adult in nature. Internet users who wish to not have their content filter must make a special request to their internet provider.

“If government officials want to protect kids from predators and age-inappropriate material, there are proven and effective means to do it,” said Duke. “They involve parental control, monitoring and discussions. Unfortunately, none has the political appeal of a ‘magic filter’ that promises stop things like child abuse, teen pregnancy and sexual assault by merely censoring content.”

The panel included representatives from over a dozen groups including the UK Council on Child Safety, the Family Online Safety Institute, and Big Brother Watch. Also participating in the discussion was Member of Parliament Claire Perry, who has long advocated for filters at the ISP level, and whose own site was initially blocked by filters due to repeated use of phrases like “porn” and “sex.”

While Duke was optimistic about the discussion, she admits there was a lot of work yet to do.

“There is so much misinformation out there, and the stakes are high. It’s important for us to be at the table, and to refuse to let moral panics be used to limit speech.”


FSC’s Douglas, Duke Attend the Dirty, Sexy Policy Conference

February 20, 2014

DirtySexyPolicy-UCSB-santabarbara-internetpolicy-media-missionandstateFree Speech Coalition Board Chair Jeffrey Douglas and CEO Diane Duke will attend and speak at the Sexy, Dirty Policy Conference, held by the Carsey-Wolfe Center at University of California, Santa Barbara, on Feb 20 – 21.

The conference will bring together prominent scholars, attorneys, activists, regulators, and journalists to analyze and discuss current challenges to media policy. Panelists will tackle such topics as content regulation of obscenity and indecency; structural regulation of broadband technologies; and the broader stakes that policy critics share.

Keynote speakers include former Federal Communications Commissioner Nicholas Johnson, who will give a keynote speech on Thursday. Des Freedman, a professor of media and communication studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, will speak on Friday.

Professors Constance Penley and Karen Petruska, as well as Associate Professor Jennifer Holt organized the conference.

Conference sponsors include the Department of Communication, the Department of Film and Media Studies, the Department of Feminist Studies, the Rick Rosen Television Studies Fund, the Center for Information Technology and Society, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center and the College of Letters and Science.


Censorship in the UK

February 14, 2014

censoredRegulators in the UK are creating an unprecedented wave of censorship that not only pushes for filters at the ISP level, but also criminal prosecution for consumers of what government officials consider “extreme porn.”  I have had the pleasure to work with a group of anti-censorship activists in the UK who are standing strong to protect speech in the UK and curtail the crusade UK’s Prime Minister Cameron has waged against adult content. As is always the case, those who wish to control speech try to marginalize people and groups who stand up against censorship by labeling them extreme. That is why I felt compelled to ask Jerry Barnett – the founder of Sex and Censorship – to provide a brief overview of censorship in the UK.  Jerry has been labeled as extreme because he refused to crawl into bed with UK regulators and instead consistently fights for the rights of content producers and all citizens of the UK.  Thank you Jerry and your coalition of anti-censorship grassroots activists for your incredible work. – FSC CEO Diane Duke

From Jerry Barnett…

While we at Sex & Censorship are following – with increasing trepidation – the endless drift towards censorship in the UK, we’re sometimes reminded that many of our supporters can’t keep up with all the news and events. That’s hardly surprising: Britain is currently experiencing wave after wave of moral panic, and it seems that hardly a week goes by without more bad news for free expression.

So here is a brief round-up of some of the main issues comprising British censorship at present.

Of course, a short blog post can’t hope to explain everything that’s taking place. I’m currently documenting British censorship in a book, Porn Panic: please join our mailing list to be alerted when this is published.

Law

  • The Obscene Publications Act: the granddaddy of all censorship laws, outlawing the distribution of content that might “deprave and corrupt” its audience.
  • Video Recordings Act: since 1984(!) the BBFC (a private organization) has had the right to censor videos and DVDs, and they seem to have a particular problem with pornography, making UK video among the most censored in Europe.
  • Protection of Children Act: originally designed to criminalize images of child abuse, but sometimes misused, even to harass viewers of legitimate pornography.
  • Dangerous Cartoons Act: yes, you can become a sex offender for possessing a sexual cartoon featuring a character that might appear to be under-age - such as seen in popular Japanese anime cartoons.
  • Extreme Porn Law: three years in jail for possessing images of what the government considers to be “extreme pornography” – even if they are images of yourself participating in consensual sex with your own partner.
  • Rape Porn: a planned extension to the extreme porn law whereby you can be jailed for possessing an image of a sexual act that appears to be non-consensual (whether it is actually consensual or not). Quick, delete those bondage photos!
  • Gagging law: no, it’s not about blowjobs: it’s a serious attack on the rights of political campaigning organizations to speak freely, disguised as a law to regulate lobbying.

Regulation

  • Although they’ve never been mandated by Parliament or the British people to do so, Ofcom have consistently refused to allow hardcore sex on TV: even on adult channels at 3am. Almost all other EU countries, and the US, allow porn to be broadcast.
  • A private body, ATVOD, has taken it upon itself to drive much of the online porn industry out of the country, or out of business, by mandating strict website guidelines that make profitable business effectively impossible. They claim an EU directive gives them this right, although strangely, none of the other 26 EU member states have taken this action, and erotic/sexual material continues to be sold legally elsewhere in Europe without such restrictions.
  • Internet blocking: There were at least two attempts to introduce mandatory Internet censorship laws into Parliament last year; while these both failed, we expect similar laws to have more success in the near future.

ISPs

  • Mobile networks: since 2004, mobile operators have voluntarily censored Internet access from phones until the owner proves they are over 18. This censorship covers all sorts of material, and many adults as well as teenagers are denied access to much of the Internet from their mobile phones.
  • Broadband filtering: since December, ISPs have voluntarily begun to offer “porn filters” to home-owners, under the pretext of “protecting children”. However, these filters block, not just porn, but dozens of categories of content for entire households, and offer the bill payer a means of restricting Internet access for others in the same household.

Policing Speech

A raft of laws against “malicious communication” and “terrorism” have been used to jail people for speech alone. Increasingly, the important line between expression and action is becoming blurred in the eyes of the UK authorities. These days, writing can be considered terrorism, and jokes tweeted in poor taste can see you dragged into court.

Academia

There is a worrying trend towards increasing censorship within universities, which (one would have hoped) should be beacons of free expression, debate and discussion. For example, several student unions have banned the Sun newspaper, not for its dodgy news or political bias, but for displaying that most terrible thing, the female nipple. Atheist groups have also had material banned in case it offends religious groups.

Censored UK is a reality.


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