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Proposed Law Could Put YouPorn Out of Business; No Wonder They Tried to Sell to Vivid

WWW [Wired.com]- YouPorn is the highest trafficked adult website in the world and boasts a higher Alexa rating than both CNN and Weather.com, reports Portfolio.

Saw that one coming, didn’t we?

But YouPorn and other blue Web 2.0 startups could be out of business in the near future if proposed changes to 18 U.S.C. 2257 are accepted into law.

Known in the industry as “2257,” 18 U.S.C. 2257 defines requirements porn producers must follow to verify the age of every performer, keep records about the performers’ identities and make those records available to the government. The proposed changes would extend the statute’s reach beyond adult-content producers to include social networking websites.

That could mean every adult who wants to upload a naughty picture to a social network would have to submit a photo ID and state their full name, date of birth and other personal information. The network would have to maintain that record for as long as the picture exists — likely in perpetuity throughout the universe — and ensure the record is available without question to The Authorities for 20 hours a week, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Porn studios already have a hard time complying with all the ins and outs of recordkeeping laws. And while adult social networking sites do seem to try to keep illegal material off their servers, I think it would be impossible for a social networking site to comply with the proposed changes.

What if users submit false information — who gets punished? Who verifies IDs? A studio production assistant can check performer IDs in person; would social networks have to open offices all over the country to verify prospective members in person? Good luck with that one.

Few people know much about the recordkeeping requirements. It’s like the FBI warning you can’t fast-forward on a DVD — it’s included on every porn website and adult video, but doesn’t stand out to viewers any more than gang graffiti on delivery trucks in my east Los Angeles neighborhood.

But if the proposed changes come to pass, I hope we’ll see a much overdue surge of patriotism and protest. After all, this isn’t the administration blatantly tucking the Bill of Rights into the back of a storage closet — our personal sex lives are at stake!

The ostensible purpose of the law is to curtail child pornography, and no legitimate porn producer argues with that. In fact, many have become rather paranoid about not letting underage individuals slip through the screening process.

Yet porn and adult social networking are entirely different things. The former is entertainment; the latter is sex.

An adult social networking site is not about producers publishing static content in hopes of making a profit. It’s about people coming together and sharing sexual experiences.

They might plan to hook up in person or keep the sex online; they might simply participate in exhibitionism or voyeurism; it can be entirely fantasy or a platform for ongoing relationships. Sometimes it’s as simple as uploading a favorite clip from a porn DVD.

But the foundation of social networking, or user-generated content, or Web 2.0, or whatever you want to call it, is community. Users don’t passively look at content someone else chose to shove at them. They share, rate, create, organize, recommend, criticize. No member stands alone.

A porn delivery site is a one-on-one transaction; a social network is a many-to-many bazaar that exists because its members communicate. Minors on the site would not go unnoticed. And adults who frequent adults-only communities do so because those places are adults-only, not because they want to hang out with minors.

It’s not just the technology that would make it impossible to enforce the new regulations on community sites. It’s the attitude. Internet community is traditionally against anything smacking of outside control or authority, and the human need to expose ourselves in sexual ways online simply cannot be stopped.

You can put pressure on a business to comply with ridiculous legal requirements, but try leaning on millions of individuals engaging in private, personal behavior in their own bedrooms. Even Alabama focused its sex-toy ban on the stores, not on the use or possession by individuals.

User-generated content may not be as slick as studio porn, but that’s okay when the content is real — when it’s no longer porn, but sex. It’s the difference between form and substance, or between art and life.

We have become complacent in recent years about the government’s ability to control the form and art of things. But the substance — the life — the sex?

Not when the venue is this private (your own home) and doesn’t involve controversial, far-reaching public decisions that involve minors, like sex education versus abstinence curriculum. And not when the regulations no longer apply to some amorphous other (the “adult industry”) but to regular people doing something perfectly innocent, like posting a fully nude self-portrait on an adults-only network.

Porn is always going to be political — but sex shouldn’t be.

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