NABOKV-L post 0006243, Mon, 3 Dec 2001 09:11:48 -0800

Lolitology & US Supreme Court

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: US Supreme Court article -- 31 October 2001
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2001 11:09:01 -0500
From: "Sandy Klein" <>
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High court puzzles over porn

By Charles Lane
The Washington Post
Posted October 31 2001

WASHINGTON · Could the U.S. government outlaw a film version of Romeo
and Juliet?

That was the hypothetical question before the Supreme Court on Tuesday,
as the justices heard arguments over the constitutionality of a law,
passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996, that bans
the use of sexually explicit computer-generated images of children.

The federal government says the 1996 law was a necessary adaptation of
anti-child-pornography laws to new technologies. Without the law, the
government argues, the spread of "virtual" child porn would make it
easier for pedophiles to entice minors into sexual acts, and prosecutors
would find it difficult to win child pornography cases if defendants
could say their images were not of actual children.

Federal authorities have already employed the statute in several
criminal prosecutions, which were upheld by federal appeals courts in
four regions of the country. Eighteen states have similar laws,
according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed by 35 state governments
in support of the federal government.

A group of adult entertainment producers calling itself the Free Speech
Coalition, supported by civil libertarians, argues that the law, which
criminalizes material that "appears to be" of sex by minors or is
promoted in such a way that it "creates the impression" the images are
real, sweeps in too much legitimate speech -- such as, potentially,
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet or Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita.

The West Coast-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit agreed
with opponents of the law, ruling in December 1999 that it violates the
Constitution's guarantee of free speech. The government appealed --
setting the stage for Tuesday's hearing.

Questions from several justices implied they were concerned that the law
could be read to penalize sexual depictions that do not directly harm
actual children, including those in some popular Hollywood films. The
hearing provided a sometimes humorous look at the justices' tastes in
art and entertainment.

Justice Stephen Breyer asked Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement
whether Breyer could be prosecuted "if I go to a video store and buy
copies of Traffic, Lolita and Titanic, each of which has a scene of
simulated sex among 17-year-olds."

Such films would not be covered by the law, Clement responded, because
they might have been made using body doubles.

"I didn't see any of those movies," Justice Antonin Scalia interjected.

"They were pretty good, actually," Breyer responded.

When the Free Speech Coalition's attorney, Louis Sirkin, began his
argument by warning of the "radical, tragic consequences" of a law that,
he said, could preclude artistic or educational depictions of adolescent
sexuality, Scalia sounded a skeptical note.

"What great works of Western art" did Sirkin have in mind? Scalia asked.
Sirkin mentioned the film adaptation of Lolita. Scalia responded:
"Lolita is a great work of Western art?"

"Well, it received critical acclaim," Sirkin said.

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