1.20.2006

Big Brother is Cruising



(I'd set out not to make this a political blog. Nothing worse than being aroused and having to face a hideous image of Chimpolean. But if relates to gay sexuality, I might bend my rule, so...)

(No wet stuff
on cruise sites!)


Gay cruising sites protected from feds
Judge grants preliminary injunction for 'secondary producers' in lawsuit

By DYANA BAGBY | Jan 19, 4:57 PM

A recent ruling by a federal judge protects web hosts of gay male cruising sites that post sexual images and nude photos of paying members.

But First Amendment claims to protect privacy rights of pornographers made by the Free Speech Coalition, an adult trade organization and lead plaintiff in the suit seeking the injunction, were dismissed by the judge in the mixed ruling issued last month.

U.S. District Judge Walker D. Miller granted a preliminary injunction Dec. 28 blocking U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department from mandating internet chat rooms and some websites, known as "secondary producers," to keep detailed records available to random viewings by the federal government identifying the members posting the sexual images, such as their legal names, age and a photo I.D.

"Plaintiffs [FSC et al] have shown a substantial likelihood of success of establishing that the statute and regulations may not be enforced as to secondary producers who are not involved in any activity that involves 'hiring, contracting for, managing, or otherwise arranging for the participation of the performers depicted. U.S.C. 18 §2257 (h) (3)'," Walker stated in the 29-page ruling.

Secondary producers do include such websites as Gay.com, Bigmuscle.com, men4now.com and adam4adam.com, according to Tom Hymes, spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition.

"The issue of dating and cruising sites, yes, if in fact they are not creating the images themselves, are protected as secondary producers," Hymes said in a Jan. 18 interview.

"Our immediate reaction is that the ruling deals a substantial and welcome blow to the government's regulatory scheme," he added.

The DOJ sought stricter regulations as part of an aggressive initiative by President Bush and some lawmakers to slow child pornography on the Internet.

"The record-keeping requirements... are crucial to preventing children from being exploited by the production of pornography," Gonzales said in a May 17 statement.

But if some sexually explicit websites are unsure of their status – and some dating and cruising sites may be both primary and secondary producers - they should seek legal advice, Hymes advised.

"Primary producers are still under an egregious burden," he said. "We really wanted much more to stop the invasion of people's privacy. In the big picture, this is a victory for us because it's not going to get any worse than this. But this is still a bad law that doesn't work and it is so fundamentally unfair, it's not even funny."

The stricter regulations for online pornography, which were to go into effect in June, prompted PlanetOut Inc., the owner of Gay.com and a member of the Free Speech Coalition, to remove sexually explicit photos for one day before one of several temporary reprieves were reached with the DOJ until Walker's ruling last month.

James David, a spokesperson for PlanetOut Inc., said this week that Walker's ruling means the company "continues operating as we currently are without the threat of having the 2257 regulations enforced against us as a secondary producer.

"The judge enjoined the DOJ from treating any plaintiffs or members of the FSC, including PlanetOut, as a producer under 2257 to the extent that [PlanetOut] does not involve the hiring, contracting for, managing or otherwise arranging for the performance of the depicted performer," he said.

"The injunction will remain in place until a further ruling after a full trial on the merits or until overturned on appeal," David added.

A handful of other sites, including BigMuscleBears.com, BigMuscle.com and m4m-usa.com, reacted to the proposed regulations by alerting members in June and evaluating their policies prior to the enforcement reprieves.

BigMuscleBears.com and BigMuscle.com also issued a statement to members asking them to not post images depicting sexual fluids [see photo, hehe] or any kind of anal penetration due to the proposed revisions in the federal regulations.
Nudity was still allowed, according to the statement, but both sites recommended only solo images be posted as part of a self "policing" process.

The Free Speech Coalition continues to move forward with a lawsuit against Gonzales to stop enforcement of the new regulations. That suit may not go to trial for another two to three years, Hymes said.

Violations of the requirements are criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment for up to five years for a first offense and up to 10 years for subsequent offenses, according to the DOJ.


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