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January 19, 2017

First AEE Legal Panel Touts Industry Wins, Cautions for Future

LAS VEGAS—If there's one thing the entire adult community has been cheering about since Election Day, it's the Free Speech Coalition-led victory over Prop 60, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation-funded attack on adult producers and performers which, had it passed, would have resulted in voluminous lawsuits against them filed by greedy California citizens and attorneys that could easily have driven many industry members out of business and possibly even into bankruptcy. So it was only fitting that the Adult Entertainment Expo's first trade show panel celebrated that victory even with its title: Hit Me With Your Best Shot. The panel was moderated by AVN Senior Editor for Legal Affairs Mark Kernes, and had as panelists Free Speech Executive Director Eric Paul Leue, prominent attorney Karen Tynan, and award-winning producer/director/performer Kevin Moore. Kernes began by asking Leue to give the audience an overview of the adult industry's legal status in California in light of Prop 60's defeat. "What I always want to point out first is that Prop 60 taught us that the fight's probably never going to be over, but when we fight, we win," he stated. "That's the number one lesson that we need to learn about where the industry is as an industry right now. We need to learn that we can stand up for ourselves successfully and that's very powerful." He went on to note that Prop 60 was defeated even though the industry had far less money to work with than did the proposition's sole funder, AIDS Healthcare—and less money than was used to fight AHF's Measure B, which is currently under a non-enforcement agreement until 2018. He also drew the audience's attention to the various "porn is a public health crisis" bills which have already surfaced Virginia, Utah, South Carolina and Texas, and the industry's need to confront them lest the U.S. find itself in a situation similar to the one currently pending in the UK, where all adult internet content would be blocked unless the subscriber affirmatively asked to have access to it. Turning to Cal/OSHA, Tynan reminded the audience that the first Standards Board Advisory Committee meeting of the year would take place on January 31, and the sole topic would be discussion of the two petitions aimed at reforming the state's health code, FSC's petition 560 and AHF's petition 557. "Cal/OSHA is still complaint-driven, so the only time they will come knocking at anyone's door is if they receive a complaint," she stated. "Ninety percent of the complaints come from one entity; anybody want to venture a guess at what that entity is?" "I don't know; it's three syllables: A-H-something?" responded attorney Al Gelbard. "AHF," Tynan completed, noting that, "All of the pending cases now involve complaints by that entity. ... There are a couple of active cases. We have one up in Oakland right now that a lot of people know about and are following—it's Kink. They came and reinspected and took issue with the movie Star Trek: The Next Penetration, which I think is an exceptional title. The interesting part about defending that case ... is that the model actually chose condoms for the vaginal sex part of her scene, and non-condom for the anal part because she needed to make birth control choices that day. So it's going to be quite a play on performer choice in our defense, and the reliance on testing." Kernes then asked Moore to give an overview of what it's like to shoot in Los Angeles County currently. "I left L.A. County," Moore noted. "I produce outside of LA County ... [but] it's a huge concern, because even outside of L.A. County—Simi Valley has rules, Ventura has rules—you've still got to be careful because you're still the enemy in many ways." He went on to note that while L.A. County residents are used to seeing grip trucks unloading lights and cameras at a location, and may even assume an adult shoot is taking place, such activity is foreign to areas outside the country, and the locals usually take a 'live and let live' attitude. He also said, however, that he doesn't allow performers to post photos from his sets on social media, in part so that later, investigators would have a harder time determining the location of the shoot. "That's what's going to end up getting people busted," he said, to which Tynan added that in some recent busts that she's familiar with, the police came armed with print-outs from Twitter pages and screen grabs of various websites revealing the location and date of the shoot—a problem because Cal/OSHA has just 180 days to file a complaint, so the longer they can be kept in the dark, the better. "What I really want to point out is, we're not talking about dodging any laws or circumventing any sort of laws that are actually intended to protect workers in our industry," Leue cautioned. "What we're talking about is preventing people that have moral prejudice against what we do and the work that we do and the media we engage in from utilizing language to harass us, to break us down and to cost us thousands and thousands of dollars just to try and protect our existence." Leue also noted the growing trend of political activism among performers, citing Ela Darling's recent run for a delegate's seat on the state Democratic Committee. "She didn't get it," he observed, "but she was first runner-up, so she got the best of both worlds: She got the platform and none of the responsibility ... so it's important that we empower each other and say 'Your voice is a valid voice' and also that we ... should forget about the minor infighting that we oftentimes have and look at the bigger picture of our industry as a community that is one of the most marginalized work forces all across the country." Leue also warned about possible attempts in the U.S to replicate the UK's age verification protocols regarding who can watch adult content at what age. "I want to play offense; I don't want to play defense; I don't want to wait until a wave comes at us and then say, 'All right, let's try and build a wall,'" he cautioned. "Let's learn how we can fight the wave; let's learn how we can shape policy; let's be active in talking to our legislators and our elected officials and showing the human side of the industry that does exist." The discussion then turned to whether Cal/OSHA will be targeting online content in addition to DVDs, and Tynan noted that she currently has a case where the agency bought a membership to a site, took screen grabs and are using them to prosecute the company. Tynan also speculated that the Trump administration, in fulfilling its promise to decrease federal bureaucracy and appoint agency heads whose business interests are often adverse to the agency they've been picked to run, might cut funding to federal OSHA, which would in turn filter down to similar cuts to Cal/OSHA, making them less likely to target adult. Discussion then turned to AIDS Healthcare's funding of both Prop 60 and Prop 61, which would have increased the costs of medicine for most Californians. Both propositions were defeated at the polls, but for the adult industry, an important point was that the non-profit AHF spent $25 million funding those campaigns, in violation of federal tax laws. "I've worked in non-profits for basically my entire adult life, and when I moved to the United States, I got very involved with HIV health LGBTQ non-profits to promote sexual health," Leue revealed. "When I look at it, and as a gay man, I've lost people to HIV, and when I see an HIV organization that spends $25 million that could be used to help my community or other communities in need to achieve real, tangible targets such as bringing them out of homelessness, helping them gain medical access, helping them into mental health programs, and then I see a megalomaniac like Michael Weinstein sit there, who earns $40,000 a month for leading a non-profit, I find that mind-boggling. When he uses $25 million on egomaniac initiatives to boost his own perception of what the world should be, then I have a problem with that, and so the Board of Directors allowed me to file an IRS complaint based on the grounds of abuse of funding, because AHF is predominantly funded by public contracts, by grants, and all of those have limitations and ... certain clauses that you just need to adhere to. So we filed the complaint and it's moving through the system. I personally feel appalled." Leue also warned of the many other pro-censorship groups besides AHF that the industry can expect to tangle with in the near future, which may gain increased power under the Trump administration, including Enough Is Enough, PornKillsLove, Family Research Council and others. Kernes then opened the floor up to questions, one of which dealt with whether the industry could benefit from a governmental regulatory body, to which Leue responded that FSC, the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) and ASACP already perform many of the functions that body would deal with. Another, from UNLV Prof. Lynn Comella, dealt with the continuing rumors that the adult industry would be relocating to Nevada or elsewhere, which led to a lively discussion ... but no conclusion, since so much is still up in the air politically.

 
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