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COLUMN: Federal District Court ruling makes it easier to profit from child porn



The deceptively-titled Free Speech Coalition, which is actually the largest American trade association and advocacy group that works on behalf of the pornography industry, has been handed a big win by U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson.

While it is a win for the porn industry, it is a huge loss for children.

Along with a handful of other plaintiffs connected to the porn industry, FSC successfully sued to loosen the record-keeping obligations imposed on porn producers by U.S. Code Section 2257, and to lighten the penalties associated with breaking those obligations.

Here’s what that means for the porn industry in practical terms: 1. “secondary producers” no longer need to obtain and keep age verification records for the performers in their materials, 2. the records that do have to be kept by primary producers will not be as strictly defined and 3.  the maximum penalties for violating the record-keeping obligations in Section 2257 (formerly up to five years in prison) must be lowered.

“Secondary producers” includes online porn sites such as PornHub, one of the most visited sites on the internet. The “primary producers” are the companies that create the porn those websites display.

Nowadays, it’s secondary, not primary, producers that rake in big profits.

The District Court’s ruling removes a barrier to the display of child porn online. Previously, secondary producers had to obtain verification from primary producers that the performers in their materials are all 18 or above. Now, those secondary producers are totally off the hook. If studios are willing to run the risk of exploiting minors in their content, porn sites can post it without knowing or being liable for the performers’ ages. 

Section 2257 is a necessary (but not sufficient) law to prevent the production and distribution of child porn. The Free Speech Coalition, extremely well-funded by the $97 billion-dollar porn industry, has been in the courts attempting to weaken 2257 for 14 years.

The FSC, which pretends to care deeply about preventing child porn, calls Section 2257 “unnecessary and burdensome.” If FSC had its way, 2257 would be repealed entirely.

The absurdly large mega-corporations at the top of the porn industry, like MindGeek, need to be more heavily regulated. This is especially true in light of the fact that a huge portion of their content is pirated or stolen, so the ages of the performers and the conditions under which the content was made are entirely unknown.

Even though stricter regulations to prevent the production and distribution of child porn may sound like a popular idea, it’s surprisingly difficult to enact. That’s largely because it requires taking on the porn industry, which has more than enough money to flood the courts with lawsuits via the FSC.

The porn industry itself is also a vastly under-discussed issue. In part, that’s because sexual taboos prevent porn and other related topics from being discussed in some mainstream media.

In keeping with the usual lack of attention, the only locatable online media coverage of the District Court case that is the focus of this column is from AVN, the trade magazine of the American porn industry, and XBIZ, another news outlet devoted to the porn industry.

Hopefully, the Department of Justice will appeal Judge Baylson’s decision, and the justice system will put the welfare of minors ahead of the porn industry’s profits.

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