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Censorship The Courts Your Rights Online

Appeals Court Rules On Internet Obscenity Standards 697

dark_requiem writes "The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that online content can be judged by the standards of the strictest community that is able to access it. The court upheld the conviction of pornography producer Paul F. Little, aka Max Hardcore, for violating obscenity laws in Tampa, despite the fact that the 'obscene' material in question was produced and sold in California. From the article: 'The Atlanta-based court rejected arguments by Little's attorneys that applying a local community standard to the Internet violates the First Amendment because doing so means material can be judged according to the standards of the strictest communities. In other words, the materials might be legal where they were produced and almost everywhere else. But if they violate the standards of one community, they are illegal in that community and the producers may be convicted of a crime. ... Jurors in Little's trial were told to judge the materials on the basis of how "the average person of the community as a whole — the Middle District of Florida" — would view the material.'"
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Appeals Court Rules On Internet Obscenity Standards

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @06:27AM (#31083656)

    So by that measure we should censor all pictures of women's faces as it violates the decency standards of Iran.

    • by Eudial ( 590661 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @06:44AM (#31083754)

      So by that measure we should censor all pictures of women's faces as it violates the decency standards of Iran.

      We can do better than that. Let's form a community that considers rules on internet decency the height of indecency.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 )
        Infinite recursion error.
      • by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:22AM (#31084256)
        Hell, we should just get rid of the internet. Some communities think using technology past the 1600s is "obscene", why the 1600s? Fuck if I know...
      • by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:15AM (#31084582) Journal

        That's actually not a bad scenario the judge missed. Many communities will have opposite views in regards to some content, or could even publish strict laws on site organization, content that must or must not be included, and these laws could easily be worked to make national sites illegal and local sites for local businesses legal. In another part of the country, laws could equally apply in reverse.

        My personal take? sale or shipping of a physical product across a state line, or providing a service in general should not be subject to local laws at all, only national and interstate commerce regulations. However, a locality could pass a law making it illegal for it;s local residents to ACCESS such material, or to request services. The only think that might be possible is for a locality to prevent the shipping of a product to it;s residents, or taking payment from addresses based in the local area. However, should such a system be applied to interstate commerce, the company effected should have the right to seek fees from the local community related to altering their process for tracking such potential purchases and denying them, such not to run afoul of the law. Any local law that does not provide a service to such companies should not be enforcible in interstate commerce.

        The only case I can see is where a physical product itself is illegal to posses in a state (not local, a whole state). For example, NJ forbids radar detectors. Most states forbid cigarettes crossing state lines. These products should be on the manufacturer to document to their resellers which states they are and are not legal for sale in, and the resellers then and only then could be held liable (if the manufacturer never clarified, then sue the manufacturer). For access to content on line that may be "objectionable", and for where a fee is paid for access, the site may be asked to request "are you located in one of the following municipalities:?" and if so refuse your membership (or get this data from the credit card used for payment). However, since there's no manufacturer, just a publisher, it should be up to the State or local entity to provide sufficient notice to the publisher to implement such a system if they are not based in the local state, and to cover the costs of that implementation if it is not a state law.

        • by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:44AM (#31084812)

          the problem with your theory is that you're dictating what people can and can't watch IN THE PRIVACY OF THEIR OWN HOME.

          This whole community standard nonsense to allow cenorship is wrong. My neighbors should have absolutely NO say on the content of books, movies, music, or video games I play in my own home.

          Honestly.. why is censorship ok if its your neighbors deciding what to censor?

          As far as your products crossing state lines goes.. that's a specious argument as well, since states are NOT allowed to favor commerce in their own state over another state. Its also Unconstitutional, just like censorship.

          • by thedonger ( 1317951 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @10:02AM (#31084960)

            the problem with your theory is that you're dictating what people can and can't watch IN THE PRIVACY OF THEIR OWN HOME.

            It is not legal to watch child porn in the privacy of your own home. That said, I think this judge is smoking crack even hearing the case, and the jury should be shot.

            • by 2obvious4u ( 871996 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @10:17AM (#31085156)
              In some locals it is legal to watch child porn in your own home or even in public, also the definition of child porn varies from local to local.

              At least this was an appeals court and not the Supreme Court. I imagine this one will be going to the Supreme Court.
            • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @11:38AM (#31086222)

              While I understand why child porn is illegal (exploitation of children, probable rape of children,etc.) it boggles me that an picture of a cartoon child naked is porn.

              It also seems incorrect that an artistic picture of a fictional, non-existent child is illegal (since there was no exploitation, rape, etc.).

              And you have all those gray lines where the subject looks 13 but is 18 or is 15 and looks 18.

              • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:53PM (#31087298)
                It's the modern-day witch hunt. The truest example of the slippery slope in action.

                First we made exploitation of actual kids illegal, and that was a *very* good thing. But then we banned pictures of it for sale. Also probably a good thing, stop peddlers. But then we banned sharing the pictures without money involved. Perhaps a good thing, it could be damaging to the victim to have those pictures out there forever. But then we banned cartoon drawings. And now they are just getting crazy. You can already see the next step in Australia, where there isn't even an artistic exemption (so Renaissance art, cherubs, etc are considered CP there); and now they just banned any real porn where the actress has a size A cup, or looks under 25. Yes, even if they are a legal adult, they don't want someone thinking they might possibly be underage. Next up, they'll probably want to push that age back to 40 or so. And who would want to watch that?

                The end result and ulterior motive of the groups pushing these laws isn't banning CP, it's banning all porn, period. They're just taking a small, incremental approach to their end goal.
            • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:00PM (#31086550) Homepage

              It is not legal to watch child porn in the privacy of your own home.

              What I'm going to say is not a popular view, and let me be clear that people who hurt children, and those who aid or support such harm, need to be removed from polite society. And let me be clear that personally, I find the very idea that someone would enjoy watching images that depicted such harm, to be disgusting and revolting.

              However: there is no "child porn" exception to the First Amendment. The fact that an image was produced by harming another human being (for example, a lot of the stuff at rotten.com) does not mean that the state has legitimate power to criminalize the mere possession of such images. And "child porn" laws go far beyond that, criminalizing made-up, wholely fictitious images. These laws are based on the notion that these images will cause bad thoughts which will lead directly to bad actions: they are nothing more than "thoughtcrime" laws.

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:50AM (#31084858) Homepage Journal

        The Apple community and Linux community thinks Microsoft is an obscenenity. Redmond thinks Apple and Linux are obscenities. The video game community considers Jack Thompson to be an obscenity. The PETA community thinks eating meat is obscene.

        The Baptists consider dance to be obscene.

        I think the court's ruling is obscene.

      • by Idbar ( 1034346 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @10:23AM (#31085242)
        Next: Internet is considered witchcraft, and all of those in contact with it will need to be burned into ashes!

        What year is it again?
    • by FTWinston ( 1332785 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @06:47AM (#31083762) Homepage
      I suspect that this ruling only considers communities within the USA. But presumably, if (e.g.) an amish community decided that the very concept of a website was obscene (rather than just objectionable or undesirable), it would be valid under this precedent for them to sue everyone who ever produced a website.

      You poor chaps over the pond really do seem to have the most bizarre legal decisions made for you, sometimes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by annex1 ( 920373 )
        It's really humourous when you live on the same Continent and watch with complete confusion as their entire country sues itself to death. I truly can't believe how litigious their society has become.
        • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @07:13AM (#31083900)

          It's really humourous when you live on the same Continent and watch with complete confusion as their entire country sues itself to death. I truly can't believe how litigious their society has become.

          If I were American I'd sue you for saying that

        • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @07:19AM (#31083942) Journal

          Just wait. It's only a matter of time until the Continent of Europe falls into that same litigious mode. There are already numerous cases of Germans being sued by Swedes for violating Swedish law (or vice-versa). Like the piratebay case for example. How can those citizens be subject to Danish law when they don't even live there? What a mess.

          Even within the U.S. there are jurisdictional issues.

          How will the State of Georgia arrest/punish a citizen 2000 miles away in California? If this website-publishing Californian continues to produce "nudie" photographs in direct violation of the court order, will Georgia send an invading army across ~10 states to collect him? I don't think states like Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, et cetera would appreciate that.

          Neither is it the responsibility of California to enforce Georgian law. The Californian can remain free.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

            How will the State of Georgia arrest/punish a citizen 2000 miles away in California?


            It's like those treaties we have with so many countries, but way easier. And if it turns into a federal case in any way, then extradition is a non-issue.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Opportunist ( 166417 )

              It's a federal case by definition, if I got that right, after all it certainly crosses state borders. Hell, it crosses international borders.

              • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:28AM (#31084286) Journal

                Yes the nude photos crossed state borders, but it's not federal law that is being violated. It's Florida's obscenity law, and Californians are not subject to Florida law (no legislation without representation). The U.S. court should have thrown-out the case as invalid and nonjurisdictional.

                Otherwise, if Florida laws CAN cross borders and be enforced in other states, then what happens next? Florida bans alcohol (for example) and alcohol is automatically banned for all 50 states???

                No, no, no.

                If Florida bans alcohol, then that law applies only inside their border. Likewise if Florida bans obscenity/nudity, then that law Also applies only inside their border. Florida is welcome to block the importation of alcohol or obscenity, but NOT to exert their control over other States, or sue other states' citizens.

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  Yes the nude photos crossed state borders, but it's not federal law that is being violated. It's Florida's obscenity law, and Californians are not subject to Florida law (no legislation without representation). The U.S. court should have thrown-out the case as invalid and nonjurisdictional.

                  Ahh... but was it possible for the material in question to have been bought by a resident of Tampa? Even if the vendor is officially selling the stuff out of California, if they are selling *to* Floridians, and shipping t

                  • by Bakkster ( 1529253 ) <Bakkster,man&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:56AM (#31084898)

                    It probably never ocurred to them that what they were doing was illegal in Florida, but it's quite simple to set up the website so that it doesn't accept orders with a shipping address in that state. Having read TFA, we know that we're not talking about downloaded digital photos/videos, we're talking about physical media that was ordered and shipped through the mail. :)

                    The question is, should it be a website's burden to know every local law? Where do you draw the line?

                    Perhaps it is reasonable to expect websites keep track of state laws that pertain to their business. That's still 49 additional states to keep track of, though, plus DC, the Virgin Islands, and other US territories. Not really an easy task, especially for smaller businesses.

                    In this case, though, it's not even a state law, it's a local (Tampa) law. Should every company who seeks to sell online be expected to know the laws of every county in the nation? Every city? Every township or municipality? What if they give an address in an adjacent town (which the USPO will adjust to deliver correctly) with different laws? Can you even give an estimate of the ammount of time it would take to research that many local laws and be certain your shipment will not violate some local statute?

                    I don't see how a small business can be reasonably expected to comply with all laws simultaneously, only that they act in good faith that the person ordering the material is legally allowed to do so by their local laws.

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by eth1 ( 94901 )

                  Actually, I don't think this is as clear cut as your example of banning a physical item. In that case it's obvious who is breaking the law: If the Florida resident comes to you, buys contraband, and takes it home, THEY are breaking the law. If you come into the state to them to sell it, YOU are breaking the law.

                  In the Internet case, it's not so clear. I would argue that they're coming to you buying stuff, and they are the ones responsible for taking it across the border, but you could even make the argument

                  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @11:30AM (#31086128) Journal

                    >>>In the Internet case, it's not so clear.

                    The closest example I can think of is the Playboy cases of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. When Playboy Magazine was still a new phenomenon, some States blocked the magazine from being sold in stores. So Playboy sent the magazine by mail to subscribers, but these States would block the magazine's entrance, send the issues back to the Playboy headquarters, and fine the citizen that tried to buy it. Playboy was not subject to fine.

                    I would expect the internet case to be governed by the same deal. If a Florida citizen visits playboy.com, the person who gets in trouble would be the citizen for importing contraband, not Playboy (because it isn't a Florida company).

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Viol8 ( 599362 )

              Can you be extradited for something that isnt even a crime in the state you're in?

            • by ray-auch ( 454705 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:46AM (#31084376)

              And if it turns into a federal case in any way, then extradition is a non-issue.

              And they have an easy, proven, way of doing that.

              - Mail you some child porn, and then "find" it
              - Oh, now you're on a federal charge
              - Ship you to other state
              - Drop federal child porn charge (sorry, we mailed you child porn by mistake...)
              - Ah, but now you're here, there's this state charge... (so don't think you're going home anytime soon).

              This has been done before, and withstood legal challenges, so don't think they won't do it again.

      • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @07:07AM (#31083868) Journal

        Ya know, a court can rule anything they feel like ruling. Their *opinion* does not trump the Supreme Law of the Land: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press....."

        Or the Supreme Law of the State (in this case Georgia where the case happened): "Freedom of speech and of the press guaranteed. No law shall be passed to curtail or restrain the freedom of speech or of the press. Every person may speak, write, and publish sentiments on all subjects but shall be responsible for the abuse of that liberty." - Or the Constitution of California (where the citizen resides and to which law he is directly subject): "Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press."

        It's time that we the People stop bowing to judges as if they were the ultimate authorities. They are not. The LAW is the ultimate authority within the Member States and within our Union. Enforce the Constitution - it is the law, and no politician nor judge can trump it. Our various Union and State Constitutions give us the right to speak freely, either vocally or in written form, and censorship violates those Supreme Laws.

        As a wise man opined 200 years ago:

        "The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch." Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1804. - "To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps..... The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots." - Thomas Jefferson, 1820

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The standard that should be used, IMO, is that when you visit a website, you are "virtually" going to the location of the business or owner, and pulling down their data. Since the material originated in a place where it was legal, it should be legal... there.

        But if the person GETTING that material, from whatever, is IN a place where it is illegal, then maybe he is violating the law... the supplier really has nothing to do with it.

        I mean, since they are treating these bits and bytes like tangible objec
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by teh kurisu ( 701097 )

        The first line of the summary states, "The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that online content can be judged by the standards of the strictest community that is able to access it".

        I can't imagine that Amish communities are able to access the internet.

  • No problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rastoboy29 ( 807168 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @06:27AM (#31083658) Homepage
    We just need to file a lawsuit in Fascistville, Texas to have the whole internet taken down for obscenity.

    Trust me, I'm a Texan--we've got plenty of towns that would do.
  • Without a doubt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JorDan Clock ( 664877 ) <jordanclock@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @06:28AM (#31083672)
    This has to be, without a doubt, the worst decision I have ever heard a court involving the internet. It shows a blatant disregard for how internet works.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ls671 ( 1122017 ) *

      > It shows a blatant disregard for how internet works.

      I guess the way internet works is irrelevant for some people. They make laws and decisions according to the way they think it *should* work. ;-))

    • Re:Without a doubt (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jimbolauski ( 882977 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:16AM (#31084586) Journal
      The internet should not change a thing it is simply a means of commerce similar to a phone, the reason the feds are involved is because it is interstate commerce. Using this as precedence all interstate goods can be regulated in this manor, that is the scary thing if Microsoft decides to buy a town (many mining companies own the town) they could outlaw Apple, Google, Linux, and who ever or what ever they see fit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 )
      People keep saying that, but it isn't really an internet case; the internet is just a side issue here. The 'convicted' actually mailed the porn to investigators in Florida. They could as easily have advertised in a magazine, not used the internet at all, and still ended up with the same result

      Not that it makes it any better. Don't they have real problems to worry about in Florida? Have they run out of criminals to chase so now they need to chase people for non-crimes?
  • Horseshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @06:32AM (#31083694) Homepage

    The Appeals Court dropped the ball on this one. If a crime was committed in that backwoods locale, it should be the person who viewed the porn who is charged, because they're the ones who took the active step of bringing it 'into' the jurisdiction. Yeah, it's some pretty foul porn, by most standards, but it was the police who ordered the damn things and downloaded them, not some otherwise innocent person. Frankly, it's a mockery of the law to charge him with crimes in that jurisdiction.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OverlordQ ( 264228 )

      A federal appeals court in California ruled in another case three months ago that a national community standard must be applied when regulating obscene materials over the Internet.

      A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit, however, wrote that they "decline to follow the reasoning" of the California court.

      You know this one is going to SCOTUS.

    • Re:Horseshit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:14AM (#31084216)

      Obscenity laws like this shouldn't even exist in this day and age.

      Seriously, obscenity? How about we go down to the soda shop and get some malts? Then we can go rough up the dorky kid and pitch woo to the cheerleaders. Check out those sexy ankles!

      • Re:Horseshit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:45AM (#31084372)

        Finally someone who adresses the matter.

        It's not that these laws are used against someone who is not affected by them (should not be), it's that these laws exist in the first place. There are a few laws concerning sexual activities that make sense (like laws against rape), but for the only reason that they also fit the bill for a different crime: Harming someone else's body against his will. That's basically why rape is (and should be) illegal, not because it's "obscene" or "indecent". It's because it hurts someone who does not like that.

        What is "obscenity"? And why is it not allowed? I could see how it should be illegal to shove it in my face and make me watch it (but not because it's about sex but because it's about something close to torture or coercion, just like it should not be allowed to force me to look at pictures of blown up bodies or force me to watch a medical operation, or force me to do anything against my will). But the existance? And having people look at it? How could you sensibly explain that this should be illegal?

        The law should serve one, and only one, purpose: To make our coexistance possible and "fair". A law against me stealing from you makes sense. Else you'd have to watch your belongings every waking hour. A law against killing someone makes sense too. Hell, everyone wants to live and I wouldn't want to watch my back every time I go out on the street without my gang of friends who protect me (and mug everyone around in the process). That's what the law should be about: To make sure your life, belongings and if you want to your "mental" health is upheld. If you willingly relinquish any such protection, the law has no right to keep you from it. I can't see why there should be a law that protects me against my will. A law that protects me against seeing "indecent" porn is like a law that protects me from giving away my gem collection to someone or allowing someone to kick me in the nuts. I wouldn't do either of the three, probably, but I can't see why it should be illegal to do any of them.

  • "The Community" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @06:33AM (#31083704)

    Yay. Time for this to be ruled by the scotus. They've been pretty clear on "community standards" and it's about time the internet was defined as "a community." SCOTUS did not say obscenity is defined by the most prudish members of the community. You can't simply pick the 13 most uptight pricks in town for your jury. It's time for people to be given full responsibility for the speech that is tolerated in their own homes and not the freedom to rule everyone else's homes based on the redneck perversions of that backward few.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      At first glance I read, "Time for this to be ruled by the scouts," and thought to myself, "Well, I suppose that would be taking this to its logical extreme. I mean, the boy scouts ARE paraded as some sort of pinnacle of conservative morality. Although, I have always wanted to earn a lolcats badge..."
    • Re:"The Community" (Score:4, Informative)

      by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:17AM (#31084598) Homepage

      This sort of thing has already been ruled on by SCOTUS, in Reno v ACLU [wikipedia.org]. There's a pretty clear SCOTUS precedent, and the 11th Circuit just decided to ignore it (why it never became a major part of the arguments is beyond me).

      In addition, there's an argument that the only reason that the "obscene" materials were in that jurisdiction to begin with is that the police helpfully downloaded them. That's entrapment, pure and simple.

      (IANAL, TINLA)

  • Entrapment?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kevingolding2001 ( 590321 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @06:37AM (#31083726)

    Little is from California but was tried in Tampa after investigators here ordered his videos through the mail and downloaded them over the Internet.

    Emphasis mine.
    So basically these investigators took something that was legal at it's source and imported it into an area where it was illegal, and then blamed the supplier.

    If they had of not actively done this, then no crime would have been committed.
    (Of course IANAL etc).

    • one of the problems the type of business I am in has, its illegal to sell certain items in certain locales but adjoining ones can buy them. In some cases its not even legal to ship through (we are talking environmental laws mostly - some protect the local industry laws too)

      We used to joke that some locales would have inspectors waiting for the trucks to leave the warehouse, let alone arrive at stores to see if "contraband" was on board. Of course this was all done to raise revenue for the locale. Where i

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 )

      It's like buying some weed in the Netherlands, smuggling it into Germany and then claiming the Dutch coffee shop broke the law.

      (only using weed here because I couldn't think of a car analogy)

    • by ericbg05 ( 808406 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @10:48AM (#31085592)

      Emphasis mine.
      So basically these investigators took something that was legal at it's source and imported it into an area where it was illegal, and then blamed the supplier.

      If they had of not actively done this, then no crime would have been committed.
      (Of course IANAL etc).

      My fiancée IAL who wrote her thesis partially on this issue. This was basically just a riff on a sting operation, which is obviously an extremely common technique for gathering evidence against various flavors of consensual crook (prostitutes, drug dealers, etc). The courts will not reject the technique any time soon, and legislators will never write laws banning the technique because they would hate to seem soft on crime.

      Basically, consensual crimes are more expensive to prosecute because no involved party is interested in revealing information that could lead to a conviction. The most effective ways cops and feds have come up with to do so is through intricate surveillance methods (wiretaps, inside informants) and sting ops. The reasoning is that if a person commits a consensual crime with an undercover agent then the person would probably have committed the crime anyway.

      Of course, I believe it's stupid to criminalize most of the consensual crimes we hear about (drug dealing, prostitution, (adult) porn creation/consumption), but once you decide that it's illegal, you have to come up with a way to prosecute it.

      This leads to some pretty hilarious cop behaviors. Fiancée told me about a sting in which cops leave an old car parked unlocked with the keys in the ignition in a crappy neighborhood with a bunch of audio recording equipment in the trunk. The minute someone tries to take the car, a cop swings around the corner, arrests the guy and sends him off to jail for grand theft auto.

      So in one particular neighborhood they parked their sting car in front of a nice couple's house. Couple called the police multiple times to report the apparently lost vehicle. But the cops didn't want to give away their little ploy, so they just ignored them. After two weeks, the couple decides to go have a look at the car to see if there was an ID or something there. The minute they open the door, the cops pull up from around the corner, arrest both of them, and charge them with attempted grand theft auto.

      So by "hilarious" I guess I meant "terrifying".

  • Jehovah! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dartz-IRL ( 1640117 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @06:40AM (#31083738)

    Or how declaring that Mary is not a virgin is technically a criminal offence in Ireland, but not wherever the server for slashdot is located.

    How can people know what's legal/illegal in each and every bacwater community across a country as large as the US?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cruciform ( 42896 )

      How big does the community have to be?

      Can I just move out to the middle of nowhere in the midwest, deem religion and intelligent design obscene in my "community" and put an end to them on the internet?

  • by Jade_Wayfarer ( 1741180 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @07:04AM (#31083852)
    Perfect! Now we can have some GNU/Linux fans form a community, declare all proprietary software obscene and shut down sites of Microsoft, Apple and so on! Wow, and I thought that I'll never see "A Year of Linux on Desktop"!

    What do you think, will RMS look good in black amish hat?
  • by mepperpint ( 790350 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @07:06AM (#31083862)

    This ruling is entirely unreasonable for two reasons:

    (1) This effectively extends the jurisdiction of an community law to the entire country

    (2) This requires that someone know and understand all the laws of every community

    I don't know whether the ruling is wrong with regard to the law or whether the law is horribly broken, but rulings like this are entirely unreasonable. It goes against the principles of the US to allow a small group of people to inflict their personal views and opinions on the entire country. I really hope that this precedent is changed, either by a successful appeal to the supreme court or better laws.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rufty ( 37223 )
      It also assumes that two different communities don't have laws that flat out contradict.
  • by terminal.dk ( 102718 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @07:11AM (#31083892) Homepage

    That pictures of women who are not covered top to toe are considered porn.
    I am sure thare are some communities of strict muslims in the US.

    As a result, all newsstands must be closed down, and all newspapers will have to show pictueres only of men.

    Stupidity rulez

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MORB ( 793798 )

      The real result is that geolocation filters will become more prevalent, with content providers making it so their website are only viewable from the states/countries they intend to market their stuff to (and wherfe they know their content isn't illegal).

      It's highly annoying. It's already pretty enraging when you come across a website that pretty much tells you "fuck you, this content can only be viewed from the usa".

    • Re:The result is (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:16AM (#31084230)

      That pictures of women who are not covered top to toe are considered porn.

            You had better not be making any drawings (Canada, Australia) of uncovered women, too. And make sure (Australia) that their breasts are very large. Or you are a "sex offender". How about we go and cover up all those naked people in paintings and chisel the genitals from sculptures, while we're at it?

            I myself find myself offended by a particular Dutch painter called Rembrandt. What a pervert. All the nudes he ever painted should be destroyed, and his "collectors" and any of his surviving kin thrown in jail.

  • by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @07:24AM (#31083962) Homepage

    Tar and feathering of stupid judges.

    This will almost certainly be overturned but this court had to force the waste of millions of dollars anyway.

  • I agree (Score:3, Funny)

    by outsider007 ( 115534 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @07:30AM (#31083992)

    The onus should fall upon the pornographers to keep their content out of Florida's tubes.

  • by VShael ( 62735 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @07:48AM (#31084098) Journal

    We clearly all forgot that little footnote in the Bill of Rights which says "not a guarantee, void where prohibited by law, some rights sold separately"

  • by Rone ( 46994 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @07:51AM (#31084114)

    I have to wonder if the 11th would have been so quick to insist that the strictest local community standards apply in every case if non-pornographic material was involved. Hypothetical case in point:

        1) Some particularly radical bastion of liberalism / progressivism (Berkeley, perhaps, or another community with similar values) passes a city ordinance declaring particularly inflammatory anti-abortion speech as "obscene", "inciting to riot", etc.

        2) Arrest warrants are immediately issued throughout the south-eastern US for various high profile clergymen (e.g. Pat Robertson), and other pro-life firebrands as various pieces of inflammatory pro-life literature (e.g. videotapes) are purchased and received by members of the local police.

        3) Said individuals are arrested, extradited to California, tried, convicted, sentenced, and begin their prison sentences.

        4) During this time, they appeal their sentences through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    If the members of the 11th Court suddenly "switched team jerseys" and were sitting on the bench of the 9th Circuit court, would they uphold these convictions?

    Using the reasoning they applied against Mr. Little (the defendant), they would. However, if you believe that these same judges would actually choose to follow this reasoning, I have a nice bridge to sell you.

    Normally, I would expect that the Supreme Court would (eventually) backhand the 11th for such an egregious violation of the 1st Amendment, but given the recent much-broader-than-necessary ruling on campaign finance reform, I suspect that they'll find a way not to.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:53AM (#31084414) Journal
      I strongly suspect that you are correct.

      In addition, the application of "contemporary community standards" is done in a way that would likely come down harder on porn than on politics.

      If you really wanted to know what "contemporary community standards" in a given time and place were, that would basically be a market research question, to be settled in discovery. What are Middle District residents googling? How much porn per year per capita are they watching online/purchasing at retail? What are the local rates of murder, rape, incest, etc? Hell, how many of them were watching Max Hardcore videos?

      Instead of applying this basically empirical test, "contemporary community standards" are determined by sitting the jury down and asking them "So, does X violate the standards of your community?". In order to pass, it has to be something that the community not only engages in; but accepts so thoroughly that jurors will be willing to admit sympathy, in court, with the potential of being publicly linked to the case later, with the material in question.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:12AM (#31084204)

    Most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. If an ethnic community should decide that woman not wearing a burka is obscene then all photos etc. on the internet not showing a burka should be considered pornographic. I've lost an enormous amount of respect for our judicial system with this decision.

  • The Porn Chasers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:20AM (#31084248)

    There goes another huge waste of our tax dollars. Now that we have had an expensive witch hunt we get the thrill of paying huge money to lock these guys up for no reason at all.
                    And just why should the most conservative county get to hold power over all of us. How about letting the most l;iberal county declare when something is pornographic in nature?
                    And I live near the center of Florida and nothing at all is offensive to me porn wise. So these judges are not representing the people at all. They are catering to the lowest element of dried up dullards. Sometimes I understand the loonies who go off and gun down people at random. It's because of nonsense like this courts rulings.

  • by dirtydog ( 51697 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:22AM (#31084258)

    So does this make it illegal for alcoholic beverage ads to be broadcast in dry counties?

  • Net result (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @08:54AM (#31084420)

    Porn sites in the US will smell the java and move abroad, then sell their services from there (and pay tax there). Some bum on Aruba beach will become the figurehead CEO and business continues as usual. Case closed.

    What? What else do you expect the result of this will be? That these "indecent" and "obscene" pages cease to exist?

  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:05AM (#31084510) Homepage

    On my tiny sovereign island nation, it is now prohibited to be wrong on the internet. I expect the court of Atlanta to pay the standard fine within two weeks of this message.

  • Great Precedent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theolein ( 316044 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:08AM (#31084534) Journal

    The setting of this precedent means that any grouping of people can hold anything they find objectionable on the internet hostage. This means that Google can hold Microsoft Hostage, Microsoft can object to Apple's ads and bearded Linux ogres can object to Bill Gates taking a bath more than once a month.

  • by Uzik2 ( 679490 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:26AM (#31084664)
    Surely I can find a place where anything is illegal. How did these judges get into office again?
  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:47AM (#31084836)

    "The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that online content can be judged by the standards of the strictest community that is able to access it.

    Well, here in my parts, we are pretty damned strict about polygamy . . .

    . . . so change your monogamous ways, or be sued by me . . .

    . . . oh, and yes, my family tree has routing loops . . .

  • Curious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Compulawyer ( 318018 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @09:58AM (#31084912)
    I wanted to read the actual court opinion so I logged into PACER, the official web site of the US federal courts. I was unable to find any opinion (or even any docketed case) for a Paul Little or Max Hardcore dealing with obscenity in ANY federal appeals court.

    Does anyone have the docket number or a copy of the opinion?

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @10:13AM (#31085090)

    This ruling is actually not the "Great Evil" it's being portrayed as. We've got one Court of Appeals saying the one thing, and another saying the opposite (yes, Courts of Appeal have ruled the reverse several times in history).

    Which pretty much guarantees that if the defendant appeals to the Supremes, they'll have to take the case, and come up with a definitive ruling.

  • by realsilly ( 186931 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @10:20AM (#31085192)

    For years people have suggested that filtering of porn sights for adults only was a good thing. So I remember in the early days of the web, people mentioned making an extension like the .com, .org, .net, etc... to include .xxx which would then allow communities whose law prohibit such materials to be sold in their community to be able to have their local IP providers block such web site extensions. A .xxx extension also would make it much easier for parents to filter content that they don't want their children to see. If I remember correctly, I think I recall even the Porn industry wanting it's own extension.

    This then allows those people in those communities to don't want content filtered to be able to then petition their local governments for changes in freedoms.

    There are a lot of logistics that would need to be worked out to what should go into a .xxx section of the web, but that would allow the industry to have more openness as they want and parents to have the control they want.

    Besides, since you can have access to the internet in the privacy of your own home, an you have the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, wouldn't the obscenity laws in Tampa contradict that if obscene porn is your pursuit to happiness?

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