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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • One justice, Stevens, said the Miller test can't be used for the Internet, because community standards vary too much. While this is a problem with Miller, it's always been dealt with reasonably before.

    How can it work? There is a huge difference between community standards in different communities. Does this law restrict itself to only apply the standards of the community where the site is hosted? If not, justice Stevens argument is exactly right - a web site that is fully within the community standards of its own community can be charged by members of other communities with other standards.

    The Web is quite different from most previous distribution schemes, because it crosses community boundaries.

    A traditional community information resource, like a library, chooses to collect material appropriate to its own community. If a different community has different standards, the library for the second community simply selects a different set of books. For a person in the frst community to be offended by the "inappropriate" material in the library of the second community, he has to visit that community; which implicitly requires subjecting himself to their standards (without necessarily approving them, of course).

    On the Internet, the shelves of the virtual library for every community is equally visible. You are just as likely to be browsing the information appropriate to a community that is drastically different from yours - in economic or ethnic background, or in geographic location (perhaps a different nation or continent). But the person browsing has not left their own community, and so can have the belief that their own community standards "ought" to still apply.

    There is a strong tendency in the U.S. to apply the laws of the "victim" rather than the laws of the "defendent" (to the extent that the U.S. often acts as if itw laws applied elsewhere in the world). But that causes exactly the problem that Stevens worried about - the most restrictive community standards will be invoked. The existance of a community with a more lenient standard won't matter, and such a lenient community cannot be served to the limits of its standards.
    • The short answer to "how it can work" is that it is a lot more complex than it appears, and you can't just look at the words used and judge based on that. There's a lot of caselaw and precedent behind it.

      For starters, you need to look at how similar cases have been handled, where the distributed content was not specific to a particular community. From the current decision, in re a decision about a national mailing (Hamling):

      When the scope of an obscenity statute's coverage is sufficiently na

      • Note the important first half of that sentence: we are talking about a very limited scope, things that do NOT have serious value, AND are of a prurient interest.

        That accurately describes every TV commercial ever made. And Howard Stern. And Jerry Springer. And Oprah.And South Park. And the History Channel's XY Factor. And the news coverage of the Lewinsky investigation including the Government sponsored snuff piece known as the Starr report. I'd support universal descency laws if those little pieces of ha

        • That accurately describes every TV commercial ever made. And Howard Stern. And Jerry Springer. And Oprah.And South Park. And the History Channel's XY Factor.

          It is not JUST that it might be found to appeal to prurient interest and lacks serious value. That's just two parts of the three-part Miller test. You are forgetting (?) the second prong (huh huh) of the Miller test, which is that the material must also depict, in a patently offensive manner, actual or simulated sex or exhibition of the genitals.
      • thought of one possible example...

        Some speech regarding the "swinger" lifestyle would be seen as immoral porn by some communities and as protected speech by others. Few communities would claim that "swinging" education belongs in a sex ed curriculum.

        I've sent a more detailed sketch to the ACLU...

        • Not informational text, no, it would not have anything to do with COPA. It would need to depict sexual acts in a patently offensive way. Simply remarking that people have sex with certain other people is not a depiction or description of the sexual act that falls under the Miller test. Now, if the speech did go into graphic detail about how that sex "worked", then it might be covered under COPA, perhaps. But mere educational materials about the nature of swinging clearly do not fall under the Miller tes
          • I'm thinking of a swinger community site... where you'll find not only informational material, but also "personal adds" type things where folks may have explicit photos and descriptions of interests, as well as irc-type chat rooms for discussion including "chat sex". Some might find that material offensive, particularly in the context of sexual relations not limited to one's spouse.

            I included more detail for the ACLU... maybe they'll see something useful to extract from the example. Maybe not.

            • Well, many explicit photos could be covered under this law. That does not render the entire site illegal. I am not sure what your point is supposed to be. The whole point of the law is that certain "pornographic" material would be illegal if readily available to minors, and I can't see what swinging has to do with anything in the law, nor what putting that material on a swinging web site has to do with anything.
              • > variation between the most and least restrictive
                > communities is not so great with respect to the
                > narrow category of speech covered by COPA as to,
                > alone, render the statute substantially overbroad

                OK, so OC is saying that variation is not so great. The swinger example is intended to be a possible instance where variation might be greater.

                > I agree, given respondents' failure to provide
                > examples of materials that lack literary, artistic,
                > political, and scientific value for minors,
                • I think you are misunderstanding the "sexually explicity" test. Perhaps not. But the material must depict, describe, or represent, in a patently offensive manner, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast.

                  A swinging web site could not, even if it were found to appeal to prurient interest and found to have no serious $foo value, be found to violate this law unless it had
                  • > Maybe you are trying to make the argument that some
                    > people would find the swinging web site's depiction
                    > of sexual acts to be more patently offensive than a
                    > singles' web site's similar depictions by virtue of
                    > the swinging nature

                    well, I'm trying to provide an interesting case... not really to make an argument. However, part of *why* I think it is an interesting case is related to your comment above. You say "more patently offensive" above, while I think that I mean to say that some membe
                    • If it were of the same essential manner as an illustration in a sex education text, then it won't appeal to prurient interest, and the law is therefore not applicable anyway ... if it does appeal to prurient interest, then so would the other, and you must consider its education value. If this photo is clearly framed as being of an educational nature, as the one in a sex education text clearly is, then again, I see no potential problems (leaving aside abuse of the law by prosecutors and juries, which is pos