Tuesday, January 2, 2007

An Interview with Lawrence G. Walters, Esq.

Larry Walters is a First Amendment attorney, and one of the elite handful of lawyers who defend those in the adult entertainment business. His law firm clients include: adult webmasters, those with free & pay sites; performers & escorts with websites or who use the internet for promotional reasons; those who run gambling sites; & those who create &/or control content & are concerned about everything from copyright protection to obscenity concerns.

In short ~ if you're in the adult business world, on the internet & in the USA, pay attention!

Larry Walters has developed the Birth Date Verifier as a way for adult webmasters to protect themselves in the current political climate. Recently I discussed with him the significance of the Birth Date Verifier....

Please explain the difference between the Birth Date Verifier & an AVS.

An AVS typically offers a payment system, whereby users are age verified by providing a credit card or other payment information, and then given access to a group of sites served by the AVS. The BDV is a combination of a software device and a legal age disclaimer, which when used together, generate a sworn statement of age which is verified by the system to determine whether the user is over the age of 18 on the current date. If so, the user is allowed access to the site. If not, the user is blocked from entering the site or any of its age protected material. The BDV requires no payment, and asks for no personal information other than a name (or even initials) and a birth date.

Why is the Birth Date Verifier is "superior " to the "I'm over 18" click method? Does your method offer greater legal protection?

The 18+ disclaimers are perceived as a national joke by parents, prosecutors and the courts, and easily bypassed with no consequences. No age information is provided when accessing through such pages, and no 'verification' takes place.

The BDV uses a combination of the federal Declarations Act and the E-SIGN legislation to generate the equivalent of an online affidavit that is submitted by the user, verified by the system, and used to determine access rights. If a user were to lie, and include a false birth date, he/she may be granted access, but it would only be by committing a federal offense. People can get away with all kinds of things if they're willing to commit crimes.

When weighing who is at fault, we believe that the courts would side with the webmaster who has taken appropriate steps to verify age given current technology, as opposed to a user who is willing to commit the federal felony of perjury to gain access to the site. This is similar to the clerk who sells tobacco to a minor with a fake ID.

No age check system is perfect, by any means, and neither is the BDV. However, the federal law relating on online age verification, COPA, includes a specific affirmative defense which allows webmasters to use "any other reasonable measures that are feasible under available technology" to verify age. Until devices such as finger print pads or retina scans become commonplace, the BDV should qualify as such a 'reasonable measure'.

What sites, in your opinion, are most in need of such a device?

Free sites, to be sure, will benefit the most by this device. Since most pay sites use credit cards to verify age, free sites are left with little or no option besides the BDV, since they do not charge for their services.

Moreover, the Credit Card companies do not want their cards being used for age verification, and Visa specifically prohibits it. Therefore, even if credit cards are partially relied upon for age verification, the BDV is an excellent secondary check for users.

It should also be noted that various other forms of payment are routinely accepted by pay sites, such as online checks or 900 numbers. The BDV can be successfully incorporated into the payment process when using these alternate payment methods, to ensure that some form of age verification has occurred.

If the adult site is a free site, not a paid memberships site with protected content areas, will this method work well? Given traffic from Google etc..

Our clients have found ways to successfully incorporate the BDV into free sites, or free areas, without sacrificing much search engine optimization. For example, free tours can remain outside the BDV block, so long as they are age appropriate. This will allow the search engines to pick up the free pages, and index them accordingly. However, it should be noted that implementation of the BDV (or any other effective age verification tool) may negatively impact traffic or other marketing.

Every webmaster must make a decision whether the additional legal protection is worth some potential impact on profits. Our clients generally prefer to play it safe, even if it means less revenue. However, when implemented correctly, the BDV will not significantly impact the site's profitability or recognition.

What is the cost for the Birth Date Verifier? How does a webmaster qualify for the device?

We provide the device free of charge to our clients. If an interested webmaster wants to obtain the device without becoming a client for some reason, we have made the device available on a monthly subscription basis.

This decision is made on a case by case basis, and we must approve the sites on which the device will be used, particularly by non-clients. AVS companies are not allowed to use the device. The cost of the subscription will vary depending on the needs of the client, but starts at less than $1500 per year.

How difficult is this to install upon a website?

It is extremely simple. The device is provided in ASP, PHP, CGI and Cold Fusion versions. We've never had any reports of problems installing the device, but we offer technical assistance to those who need it, at no additional cost.

Please explain what real dangers you see to adult webmasters in the USA given the current political climate. Are you concerned? Or is all the 'talk' alarmist behavior?

For years, I have preached the benefits of age verification, whether legally required or not. Having handled obscenity cases for over a decade, I've found the common theme the government tries to incorporate is access by minors. The prosecution always tries to work in to the case, some evidence of kids getting access to the materials, even if not required to prove their case.

In the very first obscenity case I handled in 1989, I defended a video store who sold a tape to a 17 year old undercover agent, who had a beard and looked 25. This made the case tougher to defend, although we obtained a mistrial. I also defended an online obscenity case where the government argued that teenagers in the neighborhood were given passwords to the site that was allegedly obscene. None of this was relevant to the obscenity issue, but they like to smear the defendant, and argue 'even your kids can get access to this stuff' to the jury. Ironically, the BDV would have been useful in that case, even if the teenagers had obtained passwords, since they would have had to perjure themselves in order to get access to the site with the stolen passwords.

I see the current threatened crackdown as a serious threat. The Senate is trying to generate evidence that porn is an addictive drug, for which there is no cure. The Attorney General has publicly committed to prosecute obscenity. There have been House Resolutions encouraging obscenity prosecutions, and the religious right is clamoring for payback, after Bush's re-election.

The game, now, is for each webmaster to make them self the least attractive target, while still competing for business. Implementing something like the BDV will assist in reducing a webmaster's exposure, while at the same time, help in keeping inappropriate material away from kids.

For more information on the BDV, visit www.BirthDateVerifier.com.

For more intormation on Lawrence G. Walters & his law firm, visit www.FirstAmendment.com.

Labels: , , ,


Grab The Bookmarketer For Your Site

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home