18 U.S.C. § 2257
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.
A recent win by FSC against 2257 on Fourth Amendment grounds requires a judge to issue a warrant under strict scrutiny before inspections could take place. This is a high bar to reach and protects FSC members.
A recent legal victory over the 2257 record-keeping regulations raised an old question in the media, even among some of our members. Why would the Free Speech Coalition fight a law meant to deter child pornography?
18 U.S.C. section 2257 was not designed to detect or deter child pornography, and it does not do so. The industry endorses and supports the already existing legal penalties for the production of child pornography. In addition to the fact that is unethical to contract with or film people under 18 years old, there is a mandatory 15-year minimum imprisonment for doing so.
Child pornographers operate underground. These criminal enterprises don’t comply with federal and international laws, let alone record-keeping regulations. The legal adult industry, on the other hand, is meticulous about establishing, verifying and recording the legal age of performers. While child pornography is the subtext of 2257, this regulation does nothing to affect those who produce it, but instead creates huge burdens for legal adult producers.
For instance, it is a Federal felony under 2257 to accidentally mis-alphabetize records, or commit other paperwork gaffes. 2257 allows federal law enforcement to search adult producers without a warrant — or did, until a recent victory by the Free Speech Coalition on 4th Amendment grounds. Likewise, previous iterations of 2257 declared that every blogger, Tumblr and tube site be required to keep detailed 2257 records for any image they shared, even if they were in no way connected to the production. The Free Speech Coalition fought back and won.
This labyrinth of absurd rules are designed to be used against adult producers when traditional prosecutions are blocked by the First Amendment.
If 2257 records were designed to prevent child pornography, the government would have been well-served to consult the adult industry to discuss the difference. They did not. Likewise, there have never been full Congressional committee hearings on 2257. The regulations were created and amended, only by way of conference committee additions, and frequently in the middle of the night.
The adult industry has fought hard against child pornography, and has routinely worked with law enforcement and detection programs to prevent and prosecute it. The production and distribution of child pornography is unethical, illegal and despicable. The fight against regulations like 2257 should in no way be construed as support for the latter.
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