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Back in the late 90’s, when I first began working in the adult entertainment industry, I sat down for a meeting with an attorney to talk about a broad swath of legal issues facing my employer.

The company I worked for was among the first video streaming services in the adult internet industry, and in addition to offering content we produced ourselves, we were signing content licensing deals as quickly as we could, seeking to expand our offerings across numerous niches and categories.

Over the months and years to come, the same attorney would occasionally review samples of content we were digitizing. One afternoon, he landed upon clip which literally made him gasp out loud. The producer/director of the source video was Max Hardcore – which, if you’re familiar with the name, probably gives you a good idea of how our attorney reacted.

Late last year, when I asked Jeffrey Douglas, the Board Chair of the Free Speech Coalition (and veteran of several obscenity prosecutions as a defense attorney, including one in which his client was the aforementioned Max Hardcore), Douglas told me that there’s “almost no chance that there will be significant resources assigned to obscenity prosecutions” by the federal government, going forward.

“In the highly unlikely event that significant resources are assigned to prosecuting adult obscenity cases… the material would have to be at the extreme end of extreme,” Douglas added. “Jurors have experienced the proliferation of free sexually explicit materials on the Web. They are unlikely to be receptive to criminalizing materials that are available to everyone.”

Does this mean that adult content producers can forget about obscenity prosecutions? Are the concerns which caused Paul Cambria to author his famous list now entirely obsolete? It would be comforting if the answers to these questions was a solid and resounding ‘yes’ – but as with so many legal issues, the outlook on obscenity law simply isn’t so clear and convenient.


Gene Zorkin has been covering legal and political issues for various adult publications (and under a variety of different pen names) since 2002.