Tag Archives: law

In defense of porn

I can’t believe I’m writing this. No, I don’t like porn, and I agree that it is too easily available (in fact at times it seems to be all but inescapable), but at the same time I am fed up with moralists who want to restrict what others see and do in the privacy of their own homes to protect their children’s innocence, or some such nonsense. Let me be clear about it: they are your children, and while I applaud your determination to shield them from the big, bad world, that doesn’t give you the right to restrict what other adults see and do. Your job -a job you signed up for- is to world-proof your child, not to child-proof the world.

What got me thinking about this is the push by the British government to force ISPs to put content filters in place, and to have them turned on by default. If you want to turn them off you have to notify your ISP, and by extension the government, of your desire to do so. I don’t know how things work over there, but in most places you have to be an adult (or have parental consent) to sign a contract… so why shouldn’t the people who sign up for a service be treated as adults by default?

The thing is that while trying to argue against protecting the children feels wrong, I can’t forget that the crew that wants to shield the children’s eyes is mostly the same crew that -using what is basically the same argument- opposes marriage equality. It is also akin to the crew that not too long ago passed a law in Russia outlawing ‘gay propaganda’… and please don’t even get me started on how wide ranging, inaccurate and unreliable those filters happen to be.

These filters have never really worked, not like they were supposed to anyway, and requiring people to opt-out of a government mandated filter in order to access a certain kind of content is, to put it bluntly, nothing but an intimidation tactic.

Oh, I’m not that naive. I know that, filters or no filters, internet activity is monitored. I know there are very powerful interests that seek to control what I see and do while online. I know that the advent of mobile platforms built with the internet in mind, ridiculously restrictive app stores you can’t bypass (at least not legally), large social networks and walled gardens has effectively enabled the corporate world to set itself as a gatekeeper to the internet, and I know that even now efforts are underway to restrict my access even further by pushing the app store model onto the desktop. In that regard a government mandated filter that denies me access to a specific kind of content in order to ‘protect the children’ is just a small step. Other kinds of content are sure to follow. The wild, untamed internet poses a threat that makes both governments and corporations uncomfortable, and they are desperate to get a hold of it.

Yes, there is plenty of content out there that I find objectionable, but as long as the content doesn’t cross a legal boundary, I acknowledge that it has a right to exist. I realize that I don’t have a right to shove my opinion down other people’s throats… and, for better or for worse, that means that porn is one of those things I have no choice but to live with.

As I said, I’m not in the UK, the proposed law does not affect me, not directly, but I fear that these laws will spread, that sooner or later they will be adopted by other countries, and once porn is gone, what will the next target be?

Killing language

Earlier today I came across this article about a couple of lawsuits that have been filed by the Faulkner estate for copyright infringement. One of these targets Woody Allen for daring to use a nine/ten word quote in a movie (words that were openly credited in the film), the other targets a defense contractor for quoting the author in an ad. From my perspective the second one of these lawsuits does have some merit (even in a full page ad, an identifiable quote is likely to represent a measurable chunk of the content of that ad, not to mention that a quotation under those circumstances can be seen as a tacit endorsement, and I agree that authors and their heirs have a right to refuse such a thing), but it is the first one of these lawsuits that I find not just troubling but also extremely dangerous.

Yes, copyright is important (though I also have to say that the laws that were meant to protect it have been badly abused in recent years)  and plagiarism should not be tolerated, but there is no plagiarism here, and as far as I am concerned this particular lawsuit is not only taking things too far, but if successful it threatens to set a precedent that would be extremely dangerous. Let’s face it, authors have been quoting each other for centuries, and when it comes to very short snippets the truth is that that may not even be deliberate. In fact I have read hundreds of books in my life, some as a child (to say nothing of countless newspapers, magazines, blog posts and other sources of written material, plus films and TV shows), and I freely admit that there are any number of turns of phrase that have crept into my long-term storage without the appropriate bibliographical reference attached. That comes with living and being human, it is part and parcel of the way in which we absorb language from the world around us. The question then becomes where do we draw the line. That is not an easy one to answer, but I do believe that the freedom to quote other authors, within reason, has always been one of the cornerstones of writing and literature as a whole. No, I would not extend that freedom to advertisement, that is a completely different kettle of fish as far as I am concerned, but when it comes to film and literature I do believe that suing over less than ten words out of a whole script is taking things a bit too far.

Now, as I reread my words, I can only hope that I won’t get sued for saying that extending such a freedom to advertisement would be ‘a completely different kettle of fish’, after all that particular expression is precisely one of those that have crept into my long-term storage without the appropriate bibliographical reference attached. I know I didn’t come up with it but I don’t know who did, and you know what? I don’t particularly care. It is a part of language, one of those expressions that are understood by most even if it doesn’t really seem to make much sense, and I suspect that by now its origins have been all but lost. That is how language lives, how it grows and how it thrives… and it is precisely that ability to thrive that I fear is being threatened by the Faulkner’s estate decision to sue over nine or ten words.