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LACC: High Court Denies Computer Pornography Appeal [REFORMATTED] (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 08 Oct 1996 14:35:42 +0900
From: Mark Neely <accessnt@ozemail.com.au>
To: lacc@suburbia.net
Subject: LACC: High Court Denies Computer Pornography Appeal [REFORMATTED]

High Court Denies Computer Pornography Appeal October 7, 1996, 2:29 PM

 WASHINGTON (Reuter) - The Supreme Court Monday denied an appeal by a
California couple involving the first conviction under federal law for
transmitting obscene materials by computer.

 Robert and Carleen Thomas of Milpitas, California were convicted in 1994
in Memphis for sending illegal, sexually explicit files from their
Amateur Action Computer Bulletin Board System they operated from their
home for several years.

 The system included e-mail, chat lines, public messages and about 14,000
files that members could access, transfer and download to their own 

computers and printers.

 After purchasing sexually explicit magazines, Robert Thomas used an
electronic scanner device to convert the pictures into files. He also
sold sexually explicit videotapes to members.

 A U.S. Postal Inspector began an investigation in 1993 after receiving a
complaint from an individual in Tennessee. The agent, using an assumed
name and paying $55 to join, downloaded a number of pornographic files,
ordered six videotapes and had several chat-mode conversations with

 Thomas received a 37-month prison term while his wife got 30 months. The
government also seized their computer system.

 The couple's attorneys asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. ``This
prosecution represents the first attempt of the federal government to
apply content-based regulation to the emerging computer-based
technologies,'' they said.

 They argued that the federal obscenity law, as previously written, did
not apply to the files, which were transmitted by computers and thus were
not tangible objects subject to the law.

 They acknowledged that Congress in passing a sweeping telecommunications
measure this year amended the law to specifically include computer
transmissions of obscene material.

 The Supreme Court turned down the appeal without comment.

In another pornography case, the justices refused to review the
conviction of the host and producer of a late-night, cable television
program in Austin, Texas, called ``Infosex.''

 The call-in program, which aired in 1992 and 1993, discussed human
sexuality and emphasized ways to prevent the spread of sexually
transmitted diseases, especially the virus that causes AIDS.

Host Gareth Rees, who is gay, and producer Terrel Johnson were convicted
for promoting obscenity by showing a sexually explicit film, ``Midnight
Snack,'' that portrayed gay men in safe-sex acts. They each were placed
on one year of probation.

Attorneys for the two men argued in the Supreme Court appeal that the
First Amendment free-speech guarantee did not permit an obscenity
prosecution based solely on a brief excerpt from a two-hour educational

They also said the First Amendment protected sexually explicit material
that had serious educational value. But the justices rejected the appeal
without comment.

  Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. 

Mark Neely - accessnt@ozemail.com.au

Lawyer, Internet Consultant, Professional Cynic & Author