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October 21, 2015

UK Attorney Has Great Idea: Crowdfunding Obscenity Defense

MALDON, UK—Anyone remember Myles Jackman? He doesn't make news much in the States, but back in 2012, he was the defense attorney in the high-profile obscenity trial of former London prosecutor and alderman Simon Walsh. Those interested can read about the course of Walsh's trial here, here, and here, but the gist of it is, Walsh got caught with allegedly "obscene" photos on his computer—urethral soundings, where a probe is inserted into a penis, as well as a guy's shit-covered arm shoved up another guy's ass and other "extreme pornographic images," all of which are apparently illegal under the UK's 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act. However, thanks to Jackman's excellent defense, Walsh was acquitted by a jury of all charges after just 90 minutes' deliberation. Jackman is one of the "go to" guys for obscenity defense in Great Britain, as one might deduce from his Twitter handle: @obscenitylawyer. Part of the problem is that British law is rife with various "obscenity" offenses under the Obscene Publications Acts of 1959 and 1964, as well as Section 63 of the above-mentioned Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, the Indecent Displays Act of 1981, which prevents British shopkeepers from displaying anything overtly sexy in their store windows, and the Video Recordings Act of 1984, which introduced the R-18 classification to the British Board of Film Classification, which body is the sole authority regarding whether any particular movie can be shown theatrically or sold on DVD in the country. And then there's the whole "sexy photos on a cellphone" problem, a close relative of what got Simon Walsh busted and apparently an issue that Jackman regularly has to deal with. In a recent story on Jackman on the Echo News site, the attorney noted that "anyone with a mobile phone is at risk of falling foul of the laws," and mentioned a recent case where clients of his from the Essex area were stopped by police, who searched their van while the clients were on their way to work. "As part of this, their phones were seized and it turned out they were part of a What's App group, and on that group, pornography, indecent images, had been sent," Jackman told Echo News. "They did not ask for it or even look at it because they did not realize, but they were prosecuted and did not get any legal aid. "Those convictions would have stayed with them for the rest of their lives and impacted on what they did," he added. "Under the current law, even if you have not opened [an image] or asked for it, you are in possession of an indecent image. This has happened to so many of my clients." And part of the trouble is, defending one's self on an obscenity charge can be incredibly costly—just ask some of the American pornographers like John Stagliano, Max Hardcore, Ira Isaacs, Russ Hampshire and dozens of others who've been hauled into court. Even if you're acquitted, the price tag for that acquittal can easily run into the hundreds of thousands if not millions. So Jackman had an idea: How about getting hundreds or thousands or millions of ordinary citizens who care about their free sexual speech rights to throw a few bucks into a pot in order to help pay for obscenity defense for those who can't afford to do so themselves? (This, by the way, was the original mission of the Free Speech Coalition, formerly known as the Free Speech Legal Defense Fund, until it became too unwieldy to parcel out sufficient funds to the many adult business owners facing state or federal legal action.) So Jackman set up a program with the website Patreon, whose mission statement is, "We want to help every creator in the world achieve sustainable income." Patreon has a list of creators—writers, artists, cartoonists, bloggers, etc.—who've signed up with the site, which collects what are essentially monthly subscriptions to the creativity of those artists. The creators solicit their fans and others to donate a buck or two per month to Patreon, which then funnels the proceeds to the particular creator. And what's more creative than defending sexual businesses, creators and customers from the apparently very long arm of the law? "A donation of just $1 US Dollar a month will allow me to work pro bono on legal challenges like Judicially Reviewing the Extreme Pornography legislation under which Tiger Porn defendant Andrew Holland was prosecuted: Tiger Porn Victim Bites Back," Jackman wrote on his website. "I can also continue my cutting-edge work representing criminal defendants charged with consensual adult pornography offences and advocate for privacy and freedom of expression issues for members of the BDSM, LGBTQ, Adult-Industry and Sex-Work communities," he added. Among the activities for which Jackman is seeking funding are hiring research assistants, pro-sexual-freedom lobbying efforts, fighting unjust laws targeting sexual material and sex workers and much more. "I provide pro bono legal advice for the sexual liberties campaign Backlash," Jackman notes on his blog. "I am often contacted by individuals with issues, problems and enquiries about other areas of law arising out of their sexual preferences: "For example family law issues such as: aggrieved ex-partners making malicious allegations of 'inappropriate' sexual behaviour (eg: private consensual bondage) "Or employment law issues such as: being 'outed' at work; or being dismissed for 'misconduct' (eg: viewing or making adult pornography in private; having an undisclosed second job as a sex-worker; or attending a fetish club)." According to his Patreon page, Jackman is currently receiving about $1,800 per month to continue his obscenity defense efforts, with the average supporter donating just $11 per month. So the question that American fans of adult entertainment have to ask themselves is, Isn't it my duty to support, however minimally, the people and organizations that keep it legal for me to enjoy the movies, magazines, strip clubs, novelties and other recreational material and devices I now use? We can't help but suspect that there's a Patreon donation in your future.

 
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