Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cockfighting and the First Amendment

The only thing sicker than people who actually engage in cockfighting are those people who like to watch it. It's barbaric, inhumane, and cruel (of course, I feel the same way about bull fighting, boxing, and rhythmic gymnastics). Thankfully, it's also illegal in most places in the United States. One place it is legal, however, is Puerto Rico. Should folks be able to film these legal fights and then send the videos out across the United States?

That's an issue raised by a lawsuit brought by a Florida company that makes such videos. There is a federal law, enacted during the Clinton administration, that outlaws even the possession of such videos in a state where cockfights are illegal. It's questionable whether the law will pass muster under the First Amendment. Eugene Volokh, who's quoted in the New York Times piece, weighs in with some detail here.

The first thing that popped into my head when reading this was how a successful suit might apply to child porn prosecutions. After all, the rationale the Supreme Court gave in Ferber for withholding First Amendment protection from kiddie porn was that the production of it entails criminal behavior itself. But imagine another country, say, Elbonia, that has a much lower age of consent laws than the United States. Imagine that an California company sets up a web site that allows people to watch videos of minors having sex in Elbonia, where it's perfectly legal. Prosecutable? I wonder if that kind of slippery slope problem will pop up in the litigation.

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