Controversial Condom Mandate Dies in Senate

August 14, 2014

Picture 1Performer and Producer Groups Celebrate Successful Battle Against AB1576

AB1576, the controversial condom mandate that was opposed by both performers, producers and civil rights groups, died today in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill was the third attempt bill by Assemblymember Isadore Hall to mandate condoms in adult film, and the third to fail.

Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition, said the industry was pleased with the decision.

“We’re grateful to the members of the Senate who saw this bill for what it was — a bald-faced attempt to exploit performers for political gain. But the assault had an unintended consequences — it unified performers and producers in ways that we haven’t seen in decades. Out of this grows a stronger industry, one not unintimidated by harassment campaigns like AB1576 and Measure B. But the battle is never over. We must continue to work to make sure our workplaces are safe, that our performers have a strong voice in their sexual health, and that we keep a thriving industry in California.”

Opponents of the bill warned legislators that the bill, which was written without input from either performers or producers, would have the opposite of its intended effect, and make sets less safer by pushing them underground. The bill also garnered large amount of opposition outside the industry, including from AIDS and HIV outreach organizations, sex worker rights organizations, LGBT groups, and mainstream publications like the Orange County Register, the LA Daily News and the LA Times.


Appropriations Committee Puts AB1576 On Suspense

August 4, 2014

hashtag2AB1576, the controversial condoms in porn bill, was placed in the suspense file today by the Senate Appropriation Committee. Bills are put on suspense file when their cost to the state exceeds a certain budgetary limit. The bill will be discussed further by the Appropriations committee after the state budget is completed, and will be announced with a simple up or down vote later next week.

The implementation of AB1576 was estimated to cost the state between $125K to $150K. The calculated amount does not incorporate any costs related to lost tax revenue or jobs, nor any lawsuits related to the bill. Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition had the following statement:

“Assemblymember Hall said today that he’s speaking for people without a voice, yet the bill has been overwhelming opposed by performers and performer’s groups. That he could say that with a straight face after dozens of performers spoke out against him is incredible. It’s not that they don’t have a voice, it’s that he’s not listening.

“The more legislators hear about the bill, the more they don’t like it. This bill will have major financial cost for the California, while doing nothing to improve the safety of performers. And it’s not just performers and producers who are opposed to the bill, it’s HIV and AIDS outreach organizations, sex worker rights organizations, LGBTQ organizations, and business organizations. This morning, we had a great anti-AB1576 editorial written by LA Times editor Jim Newton, joining the Orange County Register and the LA Daily News in their opposition to the bill. It’s a broad coalition. Just about the only people fighting for it are AHF and Hall.”

Opposition to the bill includes the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Project Inform, the Center for HIV Law and Policy, the Positive Women’s Network, the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, the St. James Infirmary, the Erotic Service Providers Union, the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA).

“There has not been a single transmission of HIV on an adult film set in over ten years, thanks to vigorous adult industry safety protocols,” says Duke. “Yet the bill has used fear and misinformation to take away performer’s control over their bodies and pushes the industry out of state.”


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.


RIP: Gloria Leonard

February 4, 2014

all_about_gloria_leonard_HP03129_LGloria Leonard died last night in Hawaii after suffering a massive stroke only days earlier. She is referred to as the “doyenne” of the erotic film industry by IMDb.com. Truly a pioneer, Leonard was a star of the Golden Age of adult movies, from 1974 to 1984; the publisher of mens’ magazine High Society; a staunch supporter of the First Amendment; and a groundbreaking feminist.

Ms. Leonard also was served as administrative director of the Adult Film and Video Association of America, the adult film industry trade association, from 1989, until that organization merged with the Free Speech Coalition in 1992. In 1998, she was elected president of the FSC.

She fought for the right of free expression and sexuality. Contributions made by Ms. Leonard have paved the way for generations of performers after her. She showed the world that the adult industry is a place where strong, talented women can blossom and succeed.

Good friend and former performer Veronica Vera posted on Facebook this morning, “Last night at 7:22pm, Robin Leonardi communicated to me the sad news that her mom, our beloved Gloria Leonard had passed. She asked that I hold off posting anything last night. Gloria passed with her daughter by her side. Robin’s message: ‘She’s passed. Wish her well on her journey.’ RIP, dear Gloria.”

AVN Hall of Fame Director Roy Karch wrote, “There was only one; a rare feather in the wind that we were lucky enough to have touched our cheeks as it passed this way. Blessed be Gloria, dearest one.”

Industry writer Jared Rutter wrote, “One of a kind, she was a bright light in a shady world.”

She will be missed by family, friends, fans and all those that knew her.


Assemblymember Isadore Hall Reintroduces Condom Legislation as AB 1576

January 31, 2014

320px-California_Capitol,_Sacramento,_CaliforniaFree Speech Coalition (FSC) has learned today new legislation that would mandate barrier protection for adult performers was introduce to the California Assembly by Assemblymember Isadore Hall (D – Compton).

The new bill is called AB 1576 and was introduced prior to the deadline for new bills to reach the assembly. This is the third time that Assemblymember Hall has attempted to push through mandatory barrier protection; in 2013, he sponsored both AB 332 and 640 in unsuccessful bids to legislate condom use in the adult production industry.

“This measure will further drive production out of state and create severe hardships for ancillary businesses,” said FSC CEO Diane Duke. “Last year, we were able to defeat AB 332 and 640 by going to Sacramento to lobby. It made a big difference for legislators to see people show up to protest those bills. When we go there again, to fight AB 1576, we will really need the assistance of everyone in the industry – our livelihood in California is at stake.”

The primary advocate for mandatory condom regulations is nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which has supported Hall’s campaigns to have the bills passed into law. This latest attempt to mandate barrier protection usage is the latest development in AHF’s nearly ten-year long campaign to force legislation on the adult industry.


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