I have a legal question for you. Is it possible to be convicted of murder without actually killing someone? The answer is: Probably not. In this country, we generally need a murder weapon, motive, opportunity, and a dead body. The chances of actually being convicted of murder, of which you had absolutely no knowledge, is very slim.
Here's another legal question. If you are a photographer, can you be convicted of child pornography without actually photographing any children? The answer is: Very likely. At least according to the latest proposed changes to this country's child pornography laws.
Our government is at it again (see my previous rants about COPA - the Child Online Protection Act). Three attempts to shut down all adult websites in this country have been thwarted by the Supreme Court, citing First Amendment (Free Speech) violations aka Government Censorship. Rather than going for a fourth, pointless attempt at re-introducing COPA, the religious zealots are mucking about with Title 18 § 2257. This is a rather benign regulation which asserts that any explicit photography must be accompanied by records which assert the age of the model to be at least eighteen years old. Nobody violates this law. It's a good law. We need this law. The adult industry embraces this law and exceeds the record keeping requirements set forth.
Adult website operators typically entrust these records to their attorney's office. If there is an alleged violation, da Fed's can speak with the defendant's attorney and seize all records in one stop. Records are available during convenient hours for inspection. Everyone is happy. Well, no longer. Proposed changes specifically prohibit a "third party" (such as an attorney) from maintaining the records. Website owners need to keep the records themselves and provide regular business hours. This makes it a felony to run a website operating out of a PO Box or someone's livingroom. The website must keep archives for up to seven years - so, just in case da Fed's missed a violation, you can give them the rope from which they can hang you.
Records need to be kept in alphabetical order, separate from all other records, cross-indexed to every instance of an image in which the model appears. The penalty of the smallest infraction is up to ten years in jail per infraction and $10,000 in fines. So, even if you do keep regular business hours and do your best to maintain accurate records, 4 or 5 bookkeeping mistakes or typograpical errors equates to a life prison sentence.
Imagine doing life in prison for making five typographical errors. I know I'm dead already. How about you?
This does a good job of divide and conquer: Those who wish to comply with the law and those who cannot or will not comply. Those who comply open themselves up to potential heavy fines and prison sentences for failing to cross a 't' or dot an 'i'. If da Fed's come after you, chances are they could find a mistake in your record keeping. The smallest record keeping infraction will result in serious jail time.
Those who cannot or will not comply are equally open to serious jail time. If da Feds decide that you have taken an explicit photograph, even if the model was of legal age, even if you have collected and verified two forms of photo ID from the model, even if you are certain that there's not a snowball's chance in hell of you taking a photograph of a minor -> you can still go to jail for life on child pornography charges.
It's brilliant. It's insidious. Someone must have spent years thinking this one up. It's a pity that our government isn't going after rich people who stole millions of dollars in pension funds, or trying to provide healthcare for our citizens. Instead, they want to lock people away for life because they took a naughty photograph. wow.