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DOJ Fights Porn Decision

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it will challenge a U.S. District Court decision dismissing a criminal-obscenity indictment against porn distributor Extreme Associates.

The company was cleared of conspiracy to distribute obscene materials, three counts of mailing obscene films, and six counts of transmitting obscene material over the Internet for distributing a pornographic movie in which there are simulations of women raped and killed.

“The Department of Justice places a premium on the First Amendment right to free speech, but certain activities do not fall within those protections, such as selling or distributing obscene materials,” said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in announcing the appeal. “The Department of Justice remains strongly committed to the investigation and prosecution of adult obscenity cases.”

The case was to have been one of the subjects of a Senate Judiciary Hearing Wednesday on obscenity prosecution, but that hearing was canceled, citing procedural difficulties.

The administration apparently has obscenity on its mind of late. The White House also gave its support to the indecency enforcement bill that passed in the House Wednesday and endorsed its goal of "imposing stiffer penalties on broadcasters that air obscene or indecent material," though the bill did not deal with obscenity, which is not protected speech.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.