Skip to main content

Adult Photography Record-Keeping and Inspection Law Threatens Free Speech, Privacy

March 5, 2010

Adult Photography Record-Keeping and Inspection Law Threatens Free Speech, Privacy

EFF Supports Challenge to Overbroad Statute That Chills Online Expression

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief today urging a federal court judge to block two criminal statutes that unconstitutionally limit the free expression of millions of adults who use the Internet and other electronic forms of communication, bringing the threat of criminal sanctions for private, lawful speech.

At issue are provisions of federal law that require anyone who produces a visual depiction of sexually explicit expression to maintain extensive records -- including copies of drivers' licenses, the dates and times images were taken, and all URLs where images were posted -- and often force public disclosure of a creator's home address. Even more troubling, the regulations allow law enforcement warrantless entry into homes or offices in order to inspect the records that are supposed to be kept. While these statutes regulate the commercial pornography industry, they also likely apply to a staggering number of Americans who create and share images of themselves over social networks, online dating services, personal erotic websites, and text messaging.

"The plain language of the statute subjects ordinary Americans, who are using emerging communications technologies at an ever-increasing rate, to onerous record-keeping and inspection requirements for lawful speech. They could face up to five years in prison if they don't follow the statutory requirements to the letter," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Speakers who engage in private, expressive activity protected by the First Amendment should not be at risk of criminal sanctions for violating an overbroad statute that they likely know nothing about."

A coalition of artists, producers, distributors, and educators filed suit against the provisions last year, arguing that the law censored their artistic and educational work. In its amicus brief in support of the coalition filed today, EFF asked the judge to throw out the record-keeping regulations as an unconstitutional chill on adult free expression in the digital age.

"Digital cameras, camcorders, and the Internet make it easy to create and share lawful adult material in a wide variety of ways. Thousands of ordinary Americans are doing just that, only to find themselves subject to these record-keeping and inspection requirements," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "This just doesn't square with the Constitution."

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/fsc_v_holder/EFF%20Amicus%20Brief.pdf

For more on Free Speech Coalition v. Holder:
http://www.eff.org/cases/free-speech-coalition-v-holder

Contacts:

Matt Zimmerman
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mattz@eff.org

Jennifer Stisa Granick
Civil Liberties Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jennifer@eff.org

Related Issues

JavaScript license information