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When Hollywood Screams, DC Listens

WASHINGTON – The chief author of legislation that would treat steamy Hollywood films the same as hard-core pornography said Tuesday that he is willing to alter his bill in an effort to get at child pornographers but leave the mainstream film industry alone.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., [pictured] said the legislation wasn’t intended to target the mainstream movie and television industry but to catch paedophiles who make pornographic visual material at home using underage children.

“I do know there are some concerns in the entertainment industry about reporting requirements being extended,” Pence said. “We’re in conversations now with the legitimate entertainment industry.”

The provision added to the Children’s Safety Act of 2005 would require any film, TV show or digital image that contains a sex scene to come under the same government filing requirements that adult films have to meet today.

“We are working with Rep. Pence on keeping the focus on preventing child pornography and eliminating any unintended consequences,” MPAA spokeswoman Gayle Osterberg said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is hoping to vote on the bill Thursday (October 20), industry sources said, but it’s unclear whether the Pence amendment is included in the current draft of that bill.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the primary author of the Senate version, wants to leave controversial items out of the bill to ensure its swift passage, sources said.

But that doesn’t spell the end of the Pence amendment because the House and Senate will have to work out differences in the two versions of the bill in a conference committee later.

At present, any filmed sexual activity requires an affidavit that lists the names and ages of the actors who engage in the act. The film is required to have a video label that claims compliance with the law and lists where the custodian of the records can be found. The record-keeping requirement is known as Section 2257 for its citation in federal law. Violators could spend five years in jail.

Under the provision inserted into the Children’s Safety Act, the definition of sexual activity is expanded to include simulated sex acts like those that appear in many movies and TV shows.

The bill, with the Section 2257 provision included, already has been approved by the House and is waiting consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Industry executives worry that the provision, which is retroactive to 1995, will have a chilling effect on filmmakers. Faced with the choice of filing a 2257 certificate or editing out a scene, a filmmaker might decide it’s not worth getting entangled with the federal government and let the scene fall to the cutting-room floor.

It was unclear what changes could be made to the language to catch paedophiles who videotape children and put the illicit films on the Internet. The studios fear that enacting the provision, in effect, puts them in the same legal position as the adult film industry.

While Pence said he wanted to ensure that “children are protected in the creation of entertainment products,” studio executives argue that their industry and state laws, particularly in California, already create a safe-child environment.



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