18 U.S.C. § 2257, known more commonly in the industry as “2257” is a federal record-keeping law aimed at preventing the use of minors in adult productions. Like most legislation aimed at the adult industry, however, it does very little to protect minors, while offering law enforcement numerous ways to harass adult producers.
In short, 2257 regulations requires anyone who films sexual to maintain and keep detailed records and IDs of the persons depicted in the film, cross-referenced in files, with dates of production, nicknames and copies of the movies. (It doesn’t matter if the person depicted is a sixty year-old grandfather who has made scores of movies with the producer or even is the producer’s wife.) Likewise, anyone who incorporates that imagery — a clip from a video posted on a website, a still from a movie on a box cover — must also maintain these records. And every sexually explicit image must bear a label identifying the address where the required the records can be found.
This isn’t about keeping minors out of adult film. The industry is already incredibly stringent about age-verification, as the production of child pornography is not only morally and ethically despicable, it also carries a mandatory minimum of fifteen years in prison. A record-keeping requirement means nothing to a child pornographer. But for legitimate producers, the burdensome and byzantine requirements create numerous ways for producers to be prosecuted and harassed by law enforcement, that have nothing to do with the age of performers.
With 2257, if a form isn’t complete, or you’ve misfiled, or you aren’t available when an inspector arrives, you can be prosecuted, and the stakes are incredibly high: ANY violation can result in a felony conviction with a prison term of up to five years.
What’s more, 2257 allows the FBI the ability to arrive at your place of business without a warrant and demand access to your records at almost any time. The producer has no choice but to let the agents into their studio, office, or home, and to allow them to sift through the personal information contained in the records, for hours. In one case, the FBI visited a producer over two dozen times.
Thanks to industry push back, there is now very little enforcement of the Bush-era regulations. But they are still on the books, and could easily be used to prosecute and harass if we returned to a more conservative administration.
Free Speech Coalition has been challenging the constitutionality of this law in federal court for the past six years. We currently await a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on that challenge. The FSC is here to fight back against nonsensical laws and regulations, to prevent government overreach, and protect performer privacy.