April 20, 2011

While AP may be right that there is nothing per se ‘illegal’ about using toll-free phone services to promote dial-a-porn, making ‘obscene’ communications is still a crime

Statement by Robert Peters, Morality in Media general counsel

NEW YORK (4/20/11) – According to an AP story (David B. Caruso, “Porn company is amassing 1-800 numbers,” 4/19/11) “a little-known…company…has quietly gained control over nearly a quarter of all the 1-800 numbers in the U.S. and Canada, often by grabbing them the moment they are relinquished by previous users…And many, if not most, of those 1.7 million numbers appear to be used for one thing: redirecting callers to a phone-sex service.”  The story goes on to say, “There is nothing illegal about using toll-free phone services to promote adult entertainment…”

MIM general counsel Robert Peters had the following comments:

“While the AP writer may be correct that there is nothing per se ‘illegal about using toll-free phone services to promote adult entertainment,’ there is a federal criminal law [47 U.S.C 223(b)] that prohibits the use of a telephone to make obscene communications for commercial purposes.

“Not all commercial communications of a sexual nature are obscene, but when dial-a-porn communications sink to the level of hardcore pornography, as many do, the providers of these communications can be prosecuted for violating 47 USC 223(b).

“The Supreme Court has held that obscene dial-a-porn communications are not protected by the First Amendment, and dial-a-porn providers have in the past been successfully prosecuted for providing obscene telephone communications.  The federal dial-a-porn law can still be successfully enforced again if U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will just do his job.

Commercial providers of hardcore adult pornography on the Internet use similar tactics to lure unsuspecting individuals to their websites, buying up innocent sounding domain names and using misspellings of popular domain names.  And on the Internet, when adults or children access misnamed websites, they don’t have to use a credit card to view hardcore adult pornography.  They can view  hardcore teaser material free of charge and without proof of age.  These  unscrupulous Internet pornographers can also be prosecuted under federal obscenity laws, if Attorney General Holder will just do his job.”

Author: Robert Peters   04/20/2011

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