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prosecuting pornography
How has pornography been prosecuted in the past? And why do some expect that it may soon be prosecuted again? Here's an overview of four recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on pornography, a summary of the court's past rulings on obscenity, and a look at a closely watched obscenity prosecution in Los Angeles in 2002.

A Case to Watch:  The Adam Glasser Trialwarning!  explicit sexual material
For months the adult movie industry had been gearing up for the Los Angeles pornography trial of Adam Glasser--it would have been the first obscenity trial in the city since 1993. Could Glasser's case become the first in a wave of obscenity cases brought by state and federal prosecutors emboldened by the Bush administration? But on March 20, 2002--the day the trial would have started--Glasser and his attorney announced they had reached a plea agreement with the city attorney. Here's a summary of the agreement, the sex video the jurors would have been asked to watch ("Tampa Tushy Fest, Part 1"), and FRONTLINE's interviews (prior to the settlement) with Glasser, his lawyer Roger Diamond, and the deputy city attorney who brought the case.
Pornography in the U.S. Supreme Court
Since the spring of 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided several cases involving pornography. In what will likely be the most significant, Ashcroft v. ACLU, the court upheld the constitutionality of using "community standards" to determine what sexually explicit material is harmful to minors. The other cases involve the legality of computer-generated "virtual kiddie porn" which involves no real children, a city ordinance barring X-rated "superstores," and libraries that use filtering software to block access to pornographic sites. Here are summaries of the cases, with links to the full text of the Supreme Court decisions.
An Overview of Past Pornography Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court
For decades, the Supreme Court has struggled to define just what material is so offensive as to be legally obscene, and to delineate limits on the government's ability to regulate sexually explicit material. In its efforts to keep up with the adult industry, and with changing technology, the Court has issued scores of opinions on pornography and obscenity. Here's a summary of some of its more significant rulings from 1957 to 1997.
the cambria listwarning!  explicit sexual material
On Jan. 18, 2001, Adult Video News reported on the so-called "Cambria List" (named after Paul Cambria, a longtime attorney for the porn industry who was involved in the list's preparation). The list, which specifies various sex acts that should not be depicted if porn producers want to avoid trouble with the Justice Department, is controversial within the industry, and there are differing interpretations of how it was meant to be applied. Some in the industry say it represents guidelines for the box-covers of adult videos, not for the sex acts the films depict. Nevertheless, there is wide agreement that the Cambria List shows how the adult industry is seeking to be more careful, fearing a potential crackdown on pornography by the Bush administration. While some -- mainly the big adult-video producers that have hundreds of millions of dollars at stake -- are deciding to pull back, smaller pornographers like Rob Black of Extreme Associates (see Interviews section) still insist that they are willing to test the limits.
Interview with a Top Prosecutor
A federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice from 1989 to 1994, Bruce Taylor has been involved in more than 700 obscenity cases throughout his career. In the spring of 2001, he and others were invited to talk with Attorney General John Ashcroft about the prosecution of pornography. Taylor's interview here offers an historical overview of hardcore pornography in the U.S., including the cases that have been prosecuted since 1973, Americans' shifting attitudes on porn, and what happened to obscenity prosecutions during the Clinton era.
interview with deborah sanchezwarning!  explicit sexual material
She is the deputy city attorney in Los Angeles prosecuting the Adam Glasser case. Here, she discusses the offensive elements in Glasser's film and how she arrives at a definition of what is prosecutable under obscenity law. Sanchez also talks about whether the Los Angeles community supports the decision to prosecute Glasser and whether she thinks she can win.

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