Melon Farmers Unrated

US Censorship News

2009: July-Sept

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21st September   

Going GaGa...

Lady GaGa performance winds up nuns and suicide campaigners
Link Here

Catholic school officials at Lady GaGa's New York old school are following anti-suicide groups by reportedly blasting her gory performance at the MTV Video Music Awards on 13th September.

The singer stunned the star-studded audience at the Big Apple ceremony with her most bizarre stage act to date with a shocking rendition of her hit Paparazzi.

GaGa danced with crutches alongside a wheelchair-bound performer while blood poured down her bare mid-riff. She was then surrounded by her dancers, who acted as if to mourn her death, before her lifeless and blood-spattered body was pulled up from the stage on a winch as the curtain came down.

The performance sparked criticism from teen suicide prevention group PAPYRUS, whose bosses accused her of romanticising suicide .

The singer later revealed that the quirky routine represented her private life being killed by the paparazzi.

However, GaGa, who attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart girls school as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, has failed to justify her sensational show to the nuns who teach at the centre in Manhattan's Upper East Side. A source tells the New York Post, When someone showed the nuns a video of her bloody performance at Sunday night's VMA Awards, the good sisters were not amused.


11th September

 Offsite: Family Nutters...

Link Here
Full story: Family Guy...TV programme found not so family friendly
Did Family Guy cause 179,997 FCC indecency complaints?

See article from


9th September   

Not Compassionate Reggae...

US concert tour by Banju Banton cancelled over homophobic lyrics
Link Here

The concert promoters Live Nation and AEG canceled shows by the Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton after protests from gay rights advocacy organisations over the singer's homophobic song lyrics, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Buju Banton's scheduled shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Las Vegas, Dallas and Houston were reported to be canceled.

After reports that Buju Banton signed the reggae compassionate act in 2007, a pledge to refrain from anti-gay songs and statements, he denied having signed it. Buju Banton was tried and acquitted on charges that he participated in the beating of six gay men in Jamaica in 2004.

To some reggae fans, pressure to prevent Buju Banton from playing amounts to censorship, while gay activist groups see Banton's songs as hate speech — an example of an ugly undercurrent of homophobia in some reggae music.

Buju Banton has a long-standing reputation for inciting anti-gay sentiment. His 1992 single Boom Bye Bye proposes pouring acid on homosexuals and shooting them in the head with an Uzi, among other things.


30th August   

Update: Seeking Salvation...

Director's Cut of Terminator Salvation rated R
Link Here

Terminator Salvation Director's Cut has just been rated R by the MPAA for Violence and Brief Nudity.

The official line on the PG-13 rated Theatrical Version was:

Director McG only cut one shot in "Terminator Salvation" to earn the PG-13 rating. The quick cut involved featuring Sam Worthington's character Marcus stabbing a screwdriver through the shoulder of a thug.

McG claims that in the end the nude Moon Bloodgood shot “felt more like a gratuitous moment of a girl taking her top off in an action picture, and I didn't want that to convolute the story or the characters.

So the MPAA's rating doesn't really dispute the earlier reports about what was taken out of the movie, but calling it a Director's Cut causes you to ponder the director's credbility.


29th August   

Updated: No Jokers...

USA gets wound up by jokes about its leadership
Link Here

A poster depicting Barack Obama as Batman villain The Joker has been called mean-spirited and dangerous by the President's supporters.

The image shows him wearing the white face paint and smudged red lips of the character most recently played by the late actor Heath Ledger. Beneath the picture reads the word 'socialism'.

The creator of the image remains unknown, but the website that first published the image crashed because so many had been attempting to view it.

The right-wing editor of the American Thinker website, Thomas Lifson, wrote today: It is starting. Open mockery of of Barack Obama, as disillusionment sets in with the man, his policies, and the phony image of a race-healing, brilliant, scholarly middle-of-the-roader.

A spokesman from the Los Angeles urban policy unit said that depicting the president as demonic and a socialist: goes beyond political spoofery.

The image comes as the President faces criticism over his plans to create a $1trillion healthcare programme. Republican chairman Michael Steele first used the word 'socialism' in relation to Obama two weeks ago as he slammed the President's attempts to push Congress into passing the healthcare reforms.

Update: A Flickr of Arbitrary Censorship

29th August 2009. Based on article from

The picture hosting website Flickr eventually took down the Joker image of Obama citing a rather weak sounding copyright claim.

The whole affair started when a Chicago native student, Firas Alkhateeb, created an image of president Obama wearing the Joker's make-up from the recent Batman - Dark Knight movie. The picture was a modification of a Time Magazine cover from 2006, and soon became a hit among Flickr users, bloggers and political fanatics.

The picture was so successful that it showed up at any rally against president Obama's Government, as activists embraced the image as a sign of the future to come. After about 20,000 views on Flickr only, on August 14, the photo sharing website suddenly removed the photo from Alkhateeb's profile page citing copyright infringements of the DMCA license.

Two weeks after the incident, new details arose, depicting the events that happened those days. According to Thomas Hawk, a photographer from San Francisco, he actually saw the name on the Flickr takedown notice and characterized it as totally bogus.

PDN Pulse, a photography news website, also reports that after contacting Time Magazine, the photographer that took the Obama photo and DC Comics, owners of the Joker character, none of them issued a copyright infringement complaint on Flickr for the Obama Joker photo.


28th August   

Adults Only...

Uncut version of Manhunt 2 to be released in the US
Link Here

The US games rating ESRB website shows a listing for a PC release of Manhunt 2 - rated as Adults Only.

Presumably, this release will differ from the cut version that hit consoles in America, which was rated M.

Rockstar's ultra-violent stealth-action game was at the centre of a controversy that lasted quite some time. Over here at least the game was banned by the BBFC back in 2007 - a move applauded by ELSPA - and Rockstar went away and rejigged it before submitting it once more. The BBFC rejected it once again, but finally, in March 2008, the cut version of the game was finally approved.

See article from

The Big Three console makers won't license AO-rated games for their systems, which makes it tough for a publisher to earn a return on its investment. That's why you don't see any AO-rated console games. While the open architecture of the PC negates licensing concerns, an AO-rated Manhunt 2 would still get thumbs-down from major retailers like GameStop and Wal-Mart.

Rockstar could though ship an M-rated version to stuffy US retailers while distributing an AO-rated version to more accommodating retailers and also online.


27th August   

Updated: Irrational Ratings...

FCC to report on rationalising content rating schemes
Link Here

US TV censors will consider a single ratings system that would warn parents of programming on television, video games, and wireless telephones that could be inappropriate for children, officials said.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will begin the inquiry after an agency report to be delivered Aug. 31 to Congress on media blocking and rating techniques, said two commission officials.

The FCC action follows congressional queries into whether children are harmed by inappropriate content, such as sex, violence and obscenity. Senators want to know whether revisions are needed to the law to protect children, said Senator Jay Rockefeller. The West Virginia Democrat, who chairs the Commerce Committee, said at a July 22 hearing that constituents are horrified by some programming.

Major broadcasters, along with trade groups for wireless providers including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless and for software makers such as Microsoft Corp., have voiced opposition to the plan. TV programs already are assigned ratings by broadcasters, and TV sets contain technology called the V-chip that can block display of all programs with a common rating.

The Senate, in language accompanying the 2007 law that mandated the FCC report, said it wanted the agency to gather information about the availability of alternative blocking technologies. Because television content is available over the Internet and over mobile devices, the legislation also required the FCC to consider blocking technologies that may be appropriate across a wide variety of content distribution platforms, the Senate report said.

Major broadcasters told FCC officials in an Aug. 4 meeting that a compulsory ratings system run by a third party would constitute compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment, according to a disclosure filing at the FCC.

The Entertainment Software Association, a Washington-based trade group, said in a May 18 filing at the FCC that the agency has no jurisdiction over video games and their ratings systems.

CTIA-The Wireless Association told the FCC in an April 16 filing that regulation isn't necessary because the industry has worked voluntarily to meet parents' demands.


24th August

 Offsite: American Film Censorship Buggered...

Link Here
Donkey Punch at the MPAA

See article from


20th August   

TinTin SinBin...

New York library removes TinTin book over racial offence
Link Here

The NYTimes reported that the Brooklyn Public Library's Materials Review Committee has decided to remove the book of TinTin au Congo from its shelves.

Chair of the committee, Christine Stenstrom does acknowledge that the book, created by Hergé in 1929, is of historic interest and therefore it will be added to the Hunt Collection of Children's Literature, which is located in the Central Library. This is a special collection of historic children's literature that is available for viewing by appointment only.

As the Times notes, the Brooklyn Library has actually had a good track record of keeping controversial material. This is the only book they chose to remove from shelves because the review panel found it racially offensive.


20th August   

Update: The Book without a Spine...

Yale University Press explain not publishing Mohammed cartoons in book about the cartoons
Link Here
Full story: Mohammed Cartoons...Cartoons outrage the muslim world

Yale University Press will publish The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Jytte Klausen, this November. The Press hopes that her excellent scholarly treatment of the Danish cartoon controversy will be read by those seeking deeper understanding of its causes and consequences.

After careful consideration, the Press has declined to reproduce the September 30, 2005 Jyllands-Posten newspaper page that included the cartoons, as well as other depictions of the Prophet Muhammad that the author proposed to include.

The original publication in 2005 of the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad led to a series of violent incidents, and repeated violent acts have followed republication as recently as June 2008, when a car bomb exploded outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing eight people and injuring at least thirty. The next day Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombing, calling it revenge for the "insulting drawings."

Republication of the cartoons -- not just the original printing of them in Denmark -- has repeatedly resulted in violence around the world. More than two hundred lives have been lost, and hundreds more have been injured. It is noteworthy that, at the time of the initial crisis over the cartoons in 2005-2006, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe declined to print them, as did every major newspaper in the United Kingdom.

The publishing of the book raised the obvious question of whether there remains a serious threat of violence if the cartoons were reprinted in the context of a book about the controversy. The Press asked the University for assistance on this question.

The University consulted both domestic and international experts on behalf of the Press. Among those consulted were counterterrorism officials in the United States and in the United Kingdom, U.S. diplomats who had served as ambassadors in the Middle East, foreign ambassadors from Muslim countries, the top Muslim official at the United Nations, and senior scholars in Islamic studies. The experts with the most insight about the threats of violence repeatedly expressed serious concerns about violence occurring following publication of either the cartoons or other images of the Prophet Muhammad in a book about the cartoons.

Ibrahim Gambari, under-secretary-general of the United Nations and senior adviser to the secretary-general, the highest ranking Muslim at the United Nations, stated, You can count on violence if any illustration of the Prophet is published. It will cause riots I predict from Indonesia to Nigeria.

Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed, dean of the Under-Secretaries-general, under-secretary-general of the United Nations, and special adviser to the secretary-general, informed us, These images of Muhammad could and would be used as a convenient excuse for inciting violent anti-American actions.

Marcia Inhorn, professor of anthropology and international affairs and chair of the Council on Middle East Studies at Yale, said, I agree completely with the other expert opinions Yale has received. If Yale publishes this book with any of the proposed illustrations, it is likely to provoke a violent outcry.

Given the quantity and quality of the expert advice Yale received, the author consented, with reluctance, to publish the book without any of these visual images.

Yale and Yale University Press are deeply committed to freedom of speech and expression, so the issues raised here were difficult. The University has no speech code, and the response to hate speech on campus has always been the assertion that the appropriate response to hate speech is not suppression but more speech, leading to a full airing of views. The Press would never have reached the decision it did on the grounds that some might be offended by portrayals of the Prophet Muhammad. Indeed, Yale University Press has printed books in the past that included images of the Prophet. The decision rested solely on the experts' assessments that there existed a substantial likelihood of violence that might take the lives of innocent victims.


16th August   

Update: Wavering Beliefs in Free Speech...

Atheist bus adverts in Des Moines
Link Here
Full story: Atheist Buses...Atheists fund adverts about enjoying life

A dispute about bus advertisements seeking to publicize atheist views has touched off a free speech debate after the signs were torn down,  then restored to the sides of Des Moines city buses.

The ads, sponsored by the Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers read: Don't believe in God? You are not alone.

The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority stripped the signs after receiving complaints, then after meeting with the atheist group, reversed course and put the ads back up.

The issue with the ads in Des Moines was with the word 'God', said Elizabeth Prusetti, chief development officer for the bus agency: We have never allowed that word in our advertising, promoting a religion. We've never used the word God in any advertising to maintain some autonomy. We've had churches advertise but it's been for their church and not a belief.

Lilly Kryuchkov, spokeswoman for Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers, said the group was surprised by the bus agency's decision and believed the group's right to free speech was being trampled.

Prusetti said a breakdown in communication within the bus agency led to the ads being put on 20 buses by mistake. The agency's general manager and the chairwoman of the agency's commission determined that the signs were inappropriate, she said, and that the message was not communicated to the maintenance department that puts the signs on the buses. The mixup, not complaints from citizens, led to the removal of the ads, she said.

The agency has since decided its advertising policy was outdated, and is changing it to better align with other policies regarding civil rights, the state's obscenity and profanity laws and the diversity of the community, said Brad Miller, the agency's general manager. Prusetti said agency did not specifically address religion in its old advertising policy and that the decision not to have the word God appear in ads has just been continued on over the years. Prusetti said the word God will be allowed under the new advertising policy.

By honoring the freedoms protected through our shared civil liberties, DART ... will be in the position of displaying messages and images that may be controversial or uncomfortable to some, but legal and protected by civil rights, Miller said.


13th August   

Update: The Book That Dare Not Print Its Name...

Book about the Mohammed cartoons won't print the cartoons
Link Here
Full story: Mohammed Cartoons...Cartoons outrage the muslim world

It's not all that surprising that Yale University Press would be wary of reprinting notoriously controversial cartoons of Muhammad in a forthcoming book...But in a book telling the story of the cartoons?

Yale University and Yale University Press consulted two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism, and the recommendation was unanimous: The book, The Cartoons That Shook the World, should not include the 12 Danish drawings that originally appeared in September 2005.

What's more, they suggested that the Yale press also refrain from publishing any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children's book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante's Inferno that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dalí.

The book's author, Jytte Klausen, a Danish-born professor of politics at Brandeis University, in Waltham, Mass., reluctantly accepted Yale University Press's decision not to publish the cartoons. But she was disturbed by the withdrawal of the other representations of Muhammad. All of those images are widely available, Ms. Klausen said by telephone, adding that Muslim friends, leaders and activists thought that the incident was misunderstood, so the cartoons needed to be reprinted so we could have a discussion about it.

Reza Aslan, a religion scholar and the author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam , is a fan of the book but decided to withdraw his supportive blurb that was to appear in the book after Yale University Press dropped the pictures. The book is a definitive account of the entire controversy, but to not include the actual cartoons is to me, frankly, idiotic.

This is an academic book for an academic audience by an academic press. There is no chance of this book having a global audience, let alone causing a global outcry. It's not just academic cowardice, it is just silly and unnecessary.

The book is due out in November.


9th August   

The Most Beautiful Dog in the World...

Egypt gets wound up by Hollywood doggy joke about president Sadat
Link Here

An American film in which a dog belonging to one of the characters is named after the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat has sparked outrage among the Egyptian public and Sadat's family, and prompted the government to demand an apology from the film's producers.

In the Hollywood movie I Love You, Man , one of the main characters, played by Jason Segel, tells his friend that his dog's name is Anwar Sadat. A cross between a beagle and a pug, Segel says his pet is the most beautiful dog in the world.

When asked whether this was because he admired Sadat's policies, Segel replies: No, because they look exactly alike before the camera zooms in on the dog. Sadat's picture was also posted on the dog's kennel in clips shown last week on Al Hayat, a private Egyptian channel.

It's a grave and direct insult, Roqeya Sadat, Sadat's eldest daughter, said in an interview: This is partially to be blamed on him not being valued as he deserves in his country, so it's natural that he would be humiliated abroad.

Hossam Zaki, a foreign ministry spokesman, said that either the film's writer was a boor or he wanted to insult Sadat and demanded an apology from Dream Works Pictures, the company that produced the film.

Samir Sabry, Ms Sadat's lawyer, lodged complaints with the US Embassy in Cairo and the prosecutor general. On Wednesday he filed suits against the information minister to ban the movie in Egypt and confiscate all copies of it. A court date to hear the complaints has been set for September 1.

President Anwar Sadat remains one of the most respected leaders of the 20th century. His contributions to regional peace, his service to his country and his personal courage are the characteristics that his many admirers will always remember about him, said Margaret White, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy: We sympathise with those members of his family and with Egyptians who feel offended by this Hollywood movie, but the truth is that no fleeting reference in a film can or will detract from his legacy.

I Love You, Man was distributed in Egypt with scenes featuring the dog cut out by the film company. The Egyptian censor, Ali Abu Shadi, said: The company sent us the movie without those scenes. Had we seen them, we wouldn't have allowed a film that insults an Egyptian symbol to play in Egypt.

The film critic Tarek al Shenawi said naming the dog after Sadat was a crime and very rude, and said such apparent criticism of the late president's appearance was punishable by international laws.


8th August   

Episode Aborted...

Episode of Family Guy pulled in the US
Link Here
Full story: Family Guy...TV programme found not so family friendly

Fox's Family Guy , never a stranger to the complaints of fundamentalist groups and censorship advocates, just had a controversial episode pulled from air.

It was announced this week that an abortion-themed episode of the show was produced and set to air, only to be pulled from the schedule by the nervous execs over at Fox.

The episode was/is titled Partial Terms of Endearment , and is said to have featured Lois carrying a baby for another couple as a surrogate. When the couple gets killed in a car wreck, Lois has to decide whether or not to keep the baby.

Sources inside FOX say that the show appears to end with Lois' decision being deliberately unstated, only to have Peter, her husband, pop his head in from off-screen and say, She had the abortion!

Then FOX released a statement saying, essentially, that while they wouldn't air it, they'd be happy to include it on a future Family Guy DVD release. McFarlane confirmed as much in the same interview with TV Guide. So, for all those Family Guy fanatics out there, you'll get your chance to see what FOX was so scared to f-cking death about.


2nd August   

Journey to the New...

But the same old nutter whinges in Florida
Link Here

Parents are whingeing about a sculpture of a nude family outside a shopping centre in Florida.

Parents of children who attend a nearby elementary school in Delray Beachsay say the bronze statue is inappropriate, and the Parent-Teacher Association president e-mailed parents asking them to complain.

The sculpture is by artist Itzik Asher and titled Journey to the New . It is represents the journey of Russian and Ethiopian Jews from their homes to Israel.


1st August   

Collecting Hype...

The Collector: A horror film that goes too far?
Link Here

The Hollywood Insider reported that Marcus Dunstan stated we went too far on his new horror film, The Collector .

Writer-director Marcus Dunstan and writing partner Patrick Melton have written the original Project Greenlight film, Feast , two Feast sequels and three Saw scripts. Now, they have collaborated on the home invasion horror thriller The Collector . This is the directorial debut of Dunstan who wanted to get one shot so badly that he burned his own hand to get the effect to look realistic on camera. Not wanting to hurt the actor and having a prosthetic that hand looked unrealistic, he burned his own flesh. Now, that's dedication to the art.

The brutally violent film, The Collector, is about a burglar who finds the honeowners in the basement being chained and tortured by a predator which starts a brutal war. The director says It's primal. We just hope people can make it through.

It was even difficult for the MPAA to give it an R rating as it took the filmmaker four trips with new edits in order to get the desired R, since getting an NC-17 would limit the amount of potential theater goers.

I think we went too far the filmmaker admits. The MPAA brought us back to a point where it maintains all of the impact, and now it lands even more real. The gore we ended up cutting out only amounted to about seven seconds. But it was frames here and there that really went beyond the realm of good taste. [May as well hype the inevitable Director's Cut whilst we are at it]


1st August   

Paying Lip Service to Constitution...

Local TV censorial councillors suggests 4am showing for adult shows
Link Here

An adult cable TV program will only be allowed to air at midnight or later, following a decision by the Shakopee City Council in Minnesota.

The Shakopee Telecommunications Advisory Commission had recommended continuing to air adult-themed shows once per episode, between the non-prime time hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., but City Councilors Matt Lehman and Pat Heitzman asked that the air time be pushed later.

Questions about adult programming were raised after the show Twisted TV , which is produced by Shakopee resident Mike Winter and filmed in Minneapolis, began airing on Channel 15 in the spring of 2008. The program, which is like an amateur's version of Saturday Night Live ,
spurred complaints because of its use of profanity and crude sexual language.

Telecommunications Commissioner Don McNeil tried to get Winter banned on technicalities after the city was advised it couldn't censor the show.

Some of Twisted TV 's first episodes were played up to five times at 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m., but after the city received complaints, staff gave the show an 11 p.m. time slot and started playing each episode only once.

Programs containing adult content or mature material, such as adult or vulgar language, nudity, physical violence, degradation, graphic depiction of invasive medical procedures or indecent material are required to be preceded by a viewer discretion disclaimer. The
city has been advised it can't censor such shows, but can restrict the hours of programming.

Because submissions can't be watched ahead of time, due to censorship concerns, Lehman asked that programs with adult content first air at 4 a.m., and then be moved into the loop for airing in an earlier time-spot, if appropriate.

We don't really know what we're going to be viewing, he explained. But if each program first airs at 4 a.m., who makes the call for what's appropriate to air later and at what time? Assistant City Administrator Kris Wilson asked.

Wilson said staff can preview programs ahead of time, although it wouldn't be appropriate for a government body to review an episode and vote on whether to air it.


31st July   

Constitutional Cruelty...

Campaigners submit court brief outlining the dangers of censoring depictions of animal cruelty
Link Here

The US passed a 1999 federal law that makes it a crime to sell, create or possess videos and other depictions of cruelty to animals for commercial use. Violators are subject to up to five years in prison for each count as well as fines.

A case arose in 2004, when Robert J. Stevens of Virginia was sentenced to 37 months in prison by a federal court in Pennsylvania for selling videos that showed pit bulls fighting and training to hunt wild boar. Stevens is not accused of organizing dogfighting, and in a book he wrote about raising pit bills as pets and working dogs, Dogs of Velvet and Steel , he argues against the practice.

Last summer, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overturned Stevens' conviction, saying both the law and its application were unconstitutional.

Now the Obama administration are pursuing the law and are taking the case against Stevens to Supreme Court where the U.S. v. Stevens is scheduled for argument on Tuesday, October 6, 2009.

The National Coalition Against Censorship, joined by the College Art Association, warned that a law banning depictions of animal cruelty violates the First Amendment right to free speech and that the exemption it provides for work with serious value rings hollow, given the long history of censorship of disturbing or unpopular images.

In defending the law, the Obama Administration is making the unlikely claim that local prosecutors and juries can be trusted with the power to decide whether certain words and images are worthy of First Amendment protection. Even more disturbingly, the government asserts that speech rights can be limited to promote a social interest in order and morality, and that the Constitution only protects material with serious social value that serves a higher purpose.

The road to censorship is paved with good intentions said Joan E. Bertin, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. The assertion that free speech rights depend on 'balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs,' could threaten a vast array of material that is currently considered protected expression.

The government could argue, as it has with regard to depictions of animal cruelty, that flag burning, as well as some video games, rap music, and videos are not protected by the First Amendment because their social costs outweigh their value. This would overturn more than half a century of First Amendment law holding that even material with no discernible social value is, in the words of the Court, 'as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature.'

NCAC, which tracks and responds to censorship incidents around the country, provided numerous examples in its brief of works of art that were initially scorned but were later deemed to be groundbreaking and influential, from the Impressionist school to Marcel Duchamp to Andy Warhol. The brief also offers examples of art works containing images of animal cruelty that are directly threatened by this law, including Blood Orgies by Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch, in which ritualistic performances combine fake crucifixion with the disemboweling of lambs and other animals; as well as controversial work by French Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed and Belgian artist Wim Delvoye.

These and other similar artists, and anyone who buys or displays their work, would be at risk for prosecution. Even though their work has been shown in major museums and art venues around the world, juries could still conclude that it lacks serious value. The law invites subjective judgments about what work has serious value and creates a real risk that it will be used to punish the expression of ideas that are unpopular, unwelcome, or unfamiliar, NCAC said in its brief.

The fact that we have determined as a society that animal cruelty should be prohibited does not mean that speech about animal cruelty or images of such acts can be similarly prohibited, said Svetlana Mintcheva, Director of Programs for NCAC and an author of Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression . Indeed, a core purpose of the First Amendment is to protect the right to express odious or offensive ideas or ideas that undermine moral and legal norms. We don't have to like the work and may even condemn it from an ethical standpoint – criminalizing it, however, forecloses an important discussion.

Mintcheva noted that the law threatens not only artists but also journalists, photographers, television and film producers, scientists, academics, and others if their works—despite having serious value when considered as a whole—contain depictions of animal cruelty that juries may find lack such value when viewed in isolation. For instance, video footage of a bullfight from a travel documentary on Spain, when viewed without the context of the program, would by definition be grounds for prosecution since it depicts animal harm that is illegal in this country


30th July   

Update: Masters of Pain...

FBI lash out at BDSM DVD distributor
Link Here

Barry Goldman, who operates Torture Portal, Masters of Pain and Bacchus Studios, has been charged by a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J. with distributing obscene DVDs through the mail.

Goldman was charged with eight counts of sending DVDs containing allegedly obscene films from Jersey City to addresses in Montana and Virginia.

The indictments for 18 U.S.C. § 1461 and § 1467 include the films Torture of a Porn Store Girl , Defiant Crista Submits and Pregnant and Willing . The videos all were mailed in 2006 and 2007.

The Justice Department is seeking forfeitures of all copies of the movies, as well as proceeds from the sale of the movies.

Regulators also are seeking the forfeitures of domain names and, as well as an email address,

Bonnie Hannon, the Justice Department's lead attorney in the case works for the agency's Criminal Division's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force. Investigation of the case was conducted by the FBI's Adult Obscenity Squad based at the Washington field office.

The obscenity case, originally filed in Montana, was changed to New Jersey, according to an XBIZ source. But in the midst of the appeal, the government dismissed the case, claiming it is not their policy to file obscenity charges in the place of receipt in the absence of other contacts by the defendant with the place of prosecution.

If convicted, Goldman faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each of the eight counts charged in the indictment.

Update: Painful Court Appearance

21st August See article from

Pornographer Barry Goldman's obscenity case has been put on a fast track, with a trial date set for Oct. 27


21st July   

Searching for Common Sense...

UK High Court finds Google not liable for libel in text snippets that may appear in search results
Link Here

Google is not the publisher of defamatory words that appear in its search results, the High Court has ruled. Even when Google had been told that its results contained libellous words, it was not liable as a publisher, said Mr Justice Eady.

The search giant's US and UK operations were sued in England by a London-based training business over comments about its distance learning courses that appeared in the forum of a US website. The comments were said to be defamatory and an excerpt from them could be found in Google's search results.

Metropolitan International Schools Ltd (MIS) runs distance learning courses in games development under the name 'Train2Game'.

In addition to suing Google it is also suing US company Designtechnica Corporation, which runs reviews website Digital Trends. The user forums on that site contained a thread that comprised 146 postings across 15 pages, calling the Train2Game courses nothing more than a scam .

MIS said that when it searched for the term "Train2Game" at and, results for the Train2Game thread were returned as the third and fourth results for a period of three weeks preceding the date of its lawsuit. They included the snippet of text: Train2Game new SCAM for Scheidegger . MIS used to trade as Scheidegger MIS and it said that this snippet of text was defamatory.

Google argued that its UK operation, Google UK Ltd, should not be a party to the action because: its employees do not have access to any of the technology used to operate and control and which are owned and operated by [Google Inc].

Google said that Google Inc. should be sued in California, not England. But even if England is the proper forum, it argued, Google has no responsibility for the words complained of, and therefore there is no reasonable prospect of success which is a requirement of rules on serving lawsuits outside the court's jurisdiction.

The appropriate question here, perhaps, is whether [Google Inc.] should be regarded as a mere facilitator in respect of the publication of the 'snippet' and whether, in particular, that would remain a proper interpretation even after the date of notification, wrote Mr Justice Eady.

He concluded that Google was a mere facilitator. The Bunt case, also heard by Mr Justice Eady, confirmed that mere facilitators, like telephone carriers, are generally not liable for defamatory content.


18th July   

OBituraey: Whenever press freedom needed a champion...

Walter Cronkite's press freedom legacy
Link Here

The death of Walter Cronkite elicited tributes from colleagues, presidents past and present, world-famous astronauts and those who hoped in vain to fill his empty anchor chair, all honoring the avuncular face of TV journalism who became the most trusted man in America.

Cronkite died with his family by his side Friday night at his Manhattan home after a long illness. He died of cerebrovascular disease at the age of 92.

Walter Cronkite had such a profound impact in so many ways that one might overlook an important part of his legacy--his long efforts on behalf of international press freedom and his advocacy on behalf of local journalists around the world. Cronkite was a vital participant in the launch of the Committee to Protect Journalists 28 years ago and, though his title here may have been honorary co-chairman, he was an active force throughout the years.

Not only was Cronkite America's best-known journalist, he had led a group during the Vietnam War that gathered information about reporters and photographers who were missing in action. His involvement with CPJ suggested to U.S. journalists the seriousness of the new organization, and his name at the top of the letterhead had the potential of getting the attention of government officials around the world. It did.

In April 1982, for example, after Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, starting a war with Britain, the government there arrested three British journalists on charges of espionage. The Swiss government, the pope, and the U.N. secretary-general all appealed for the release of the three journalists, Simon Winchester of The Sunday Times and Ian Mather and Tony Prime of The Observer.

But Winchester remembers that it was the CPJ letter, signed by Walter Cronkite and sent to Argentina's foreign and justice ministers, that gave him the greatest hope. After he learned of the letter, he wrote to his wife and children in England saying that he believed that the end was in sight because Cronkite and CPJ had taken up his case. After 77 days in captivity--during which British Marines retook the Falklands Islands--Winchester, Mather, and Prime were released and put on a plane out of Argentina. Mather later sent a letter to CPJ noting that, we are totally convinced that it was outside pressure that the led Argentine authorities to realize that our continued incarceration could never be beneficial to the reputation of Argentina no matter how well they looked after us.

As CPJ Chairman Paul Steiger said in remembering Cronkite's enduring contribution to press freedom, From putting his own life on the line to cover the battlefields of World War II to challenging the 'thugs' who physically harassed his reporters on the floor of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Walter Cronkite knew firsthand the challenges journalists face bringing news to the public, and he never forgot them. Whenever press freedom needed a champion, he was there. We will miss him.


18th July   

Update: Free to Hate...

US religions get an exclusion from the hate crimes bill
Link Here

The National Religious Broadcasters Friday (NRB) praised passage of a religious speech-related amendment to hate crimes legislation, while the ACLU said the overall bill still lacked sufficient First Amendment protections.

The religious amendment was adopted by a vote of 78 to 13 after which the underlying hate crimes bill was approved by a voice vote. The bill would raise to a federal offense certain crimes that could be tied to race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

NRB has opposed the hate crimes bill because it fears protected religious speech--on abortion or homosexuality, for example--could be subject to prosecution. ACLU also argues the bill threatens speech.

The amendment, which was introduced by Senator Sam Brownback, essentially clarifies that speech from the pulpit, electronic or otherwise, remain protected unless its intent was to cause violence.

The amendment says that nothing shall be construed or applied in a manner that infringes the rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, or substantially burdens any exercise of religion (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), speech, expression, association, if such exercise of religion was not intended to 1) plan or prepare for an act of physical violence or 2) incite an imminent act of physical violence against another.

The House hate crimes bill, which has no amendment on religious speech, has already passed, while the Senate version that passed this week is an amendment on the defense authorization bill. That bill is must-pass legislation, but it has not passed yet, and when it does it will have to go to conference committee, where the hate crimes portion must be reconciled with the House version.


5th July   

Morality Above Legality...

US judge admonished for posting sexually explicit pictures on the internet
Link Here

A panel of his peers has admonished the chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for having posted sexually explicit images on a computer server that was publicly accessible. But the federal panel concluded that no further action or punishment was necessary against Judge Alex Kozinski because he apologized and took corrective action.

We find that the judge's possession of sexually explicit offensive material combined with his carelessness in failing to safeguard his sphere of privacy was judicially imprudent, said the report by Anthony J. Scirica, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, who headed the special panel in Philadelphia. The panel scolded Kozinski, who was nominated by President Reagan, for exhibiting poor judgment ... [that] created a public controversy that can reasonably be seen as having resulted in embarrassment to the federal judiciary.

Kozinski had stored the images on his family's personal server.


4th July   

Defenceless Bloggers...

New Jersey court finds that bloggers are not afforded the same legal protection as journalists
Link Here

A judge in Freehold ruled yesterday that a Washington state blogger who posted comments about the pornography industry is not covered by shield laws that protect newspaper reporters and can be sued for defamation.

Acknowledging that he was wading into largely uncharted legal waters, Superior Court Judge Louis Locascio said Shellee Hale's message board postings last year about a Freehold-based computer software company were nothing more than the rants of a private person with unexplained motives for her postings and cannot be given the same protections as information compiled though the process of news gathering.

Locascio said judges have had to distinguish between people who are engaged in the true dissemination of information and those who are expressing opinions.

Courts are now being faced with the task of evaluating a virtually limitless number of people who claim to be reporting' on issues, but who are, many times, doing little more than shouting from atop a digital soapbox, Locascio said.

The decision maintains the distinction between internet bloggers and journalists affiliated with news organizations, said Thomas Cafferty, counsel to the New Jersey Press Association. Cafferty said he was not surprised by Locascio's ruling because New Jersey's shield law specifically applies to those affiliated with the news media.

Update: Appealing

26th September 2009. See article from

As expected, Shellee Hale is appealing the July decision by Superior Court Judge Louis Locascio in which the Washington state resident was denied the protection of New Jersey's reporter shield law for critical blog postings she made in 2008.

Update: Appeal to be Heard

23rd September 2010. See  article from

The state Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether blogger Shellee Hale, who was sued by Too Much Media for defamation over her online postings, can raise New Jersey's statutory protection of news reporters' sources and editorial processes.

The court will hear Hale's interlocutory appeal, limited only to those issues relating to the New Jersey Shield Law and the 1st Amendment.


2nd July   

Update: Extreme Sentence...

Rob Black and Lizzie Borden sentenced to a year in jail
Link Here

Rob Zicari better known as Rob Black and his wife Janet Romano (stage name Lizzie Borden) were each sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison after pleading guilty to once count of conspiracy to distribute obscene materials last March.

As part of the guilty plea, Zicari and Romano admitted that through the parent company of XPW, Extreme Associates, Inc., they mailed three obscene movies to Pennsylvania, where this whole thing started.

The movies that essentially brought down the company were Forced Entry - Director's Cut, Cocktails 2 - Directors Cut , and Extreme Teen #24 .

They also got in hot water for distributing the material through Internet streams.

As part of of their plea agreement the couple was also sentenced to a two year probationary term upon their release from prison.

Offsite: In Defense of Extreme Pornography

29th October 2009. See article from

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