Shld govt have right to ban videos depicting animal cruelty?

Interesting case in the US Supreme Court.

[quote]It has been more than a quarter century since the Supreme Court last recognized a new category of speech with so little value that it did not deserve the protections of the First Amendment. On Monday, the court agreed to decide whether depictions of cruelty to animals should join obscenity and fighting words as speech unworthy of constitutional protection.

The new case arose from the conviction of Robert J. Stevens, a Virginia man sentenced to 37 months in prison for selling videos of pit bulls fighting each other and attacking other animals. A 1999 federal law makes it a crime to create or sell such videos and other depictions of cruelty to animals.

All 50 states ban the cruelty itself. The federal law is aimed solely at depictions of it.

In Mr. Stevens’s case, his lawyers told the court, “there is no claim that the defendant was himself involved in acts of animal cruelty or was even present at their commission.” The lawyers also said that many, if not all, of the acts documented were lawful in the jurisdictions in which they were filmed.

Some of the footage on the videos Mr. Stevens sold was decades old, and some of it showed dog fights in Japan, where they are legal. But the 1999 law requires only that the activities shown be illegal where the video was bought or sold. The law contains an exception for materials of “serious religious, political, scientific, journalistic, historical or artistic value.”

Last summer, by a vote of 10 to 3, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, reversed Mr. Stevens’s conviction and struck down the law under the First Amendment. The majority said that if the law stood it could make it a crime to sell videos of bullfighting in Spain or of hunting out of season.

The Supreme Court has placed only a few kinds of speech beyond the protections of the First Amendment, among them obscenity, incitement, threats, fighting words and, in 1982, child pornography. . . .

The 1999 law was prompted by so-called crush videos, in which women step on small animals. A House report said the videos catered to “a very specific sexual fetish.”

“In some video depictions, the woman’s voice can be heard talking to the animals in a kind of dominatrix patter,” the report said. “The cries and squeals of the animals, obviously in great pain, can also be heard in the videos.”

Congress found that there was an active market for crush videos in 1999, with thousands of them available for $15 to $300 each.

When President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law, he issued a statement instructing the Justice Department to limit prosecutions to “wanton cruelty to animals designed to appeal to a prurient interest in sex.” But court papers indicate that there have been three prosecutions under the law, all involving videos of dogfights. [/quote] … tml?ref=us

My opinion? The law should be struck down as unconstitutional. Free speech is too sacred. One can’t keep making further exceptions. Sure those conducting the cruelty to animals should be prosecuted, but it seems excessive to jail someone just because he’s a jerk with perverse tastes who happens to possess a depiction of an act that may have been perfectly legal (same for those who possess fake pictures of child porn; if no crime was committed in the act it shouldn’t be a crime – as it is in the US – to possess a depiction of it).

We can watch acts of war or crime depictions of human angainst human but not animal/animal or human/animal. Is that the next regulation? I applaud your opinion. Enough regulation already. I read somewhere that at the current rate of prison growth by the year 2030 there will only be guards and prisoners. I didn’t do the math but it sure seems possible.

Dunno about the US, but in New Zealand, damn straight he’d go to jail!

Dog fighting is illegal. It’s an act of cruelty to animals, and a crime.
In New Zealand law, it’s illegal to profit from a crime.
Therefore filming and selling videos of dog fighting is illegal, and completely different from someone from the RSPCA posting the same video on the internet with the words “Look what’s happening! We must stop this!”

It’s nothing to do with free speech, it’s about hitting criminals in the wallet!

Maybe we should let you share a cell with Jeffrey Dahmer for a week, so that he can help you see the light. We have seen over, and over, and over again that developing a comfort level and then affinity for animal abuse is a precursor to heinous murder, even serial killings. You might find Dahmer’s story instructive: he specifically warns against the dangers of animal cruelty.

Jeffrey Dahmer should dictate your country’s public policy?

Not sure anyone would learn anything very positive from being forced to spend time in a cell with Jeffrey Dahmer’s corpse, as he was killed by another inmate back in 1994.

That said, there could be a line perhaps drawn between videos that merely document acts of animal cruelty, say, where the intention is to expose awful acts and to motivate efforts to protect animals – as compared against videos in which the cruelty to animals is done specifically for the purpose of being recorded on the video, for an intended video-watching audience.

I remember some years back there were conservative lawmakers in the United States expressing outrage when an uncensored version of “Shindler’s List” was broadcast by one of the networks late at night. The concern was apparently centered upon a couple of scenes – one in which prisoners are forced to disrobe and go into a shower chamber where they are uncertain whether their fate would be water or gas, the other in which prisoners are forced to jog naked around a cold, muddy courtyard in front of S.S. medical inspectors to sort out those fit for labor. I’d like to think that nudity under those situations would be extremely un-sexual, but apparently there are people who think differently.

Should the government have the right to ban videos depicting child cruelty?

If you ban it…does it go away?

Not in a blanket sort of way. I assume you’re talking about cruelty perpetrated upon children as opposed to the day-to-day minor cruelties that children are fully capable of foisting upon one another. (There may actually be people who for some strange reason enjoy seeing videos of small children taking toys from each other, but I digress…) Now, the movie “Changeling” depicts cruelty to children in a film that dramatized some factual events, so I’m further assuming that we’re talking purely of non-simulated child cruelty with no deemed “artistic merit”. Whats left likely falls into two categories:

  1. Surveillance/security or bystander footage that documents actual cruelty to a child. Nanny-cam footage showing kids being shaken, slapped, neglected, shouted at, etc. is normally going to be completely legal.

  2. Cruelty to a child intentionally videotaped by or with the consent of the perpetrator. The person doing this sort of thing is possibly already breaking some sort of child-abuse laws, so any video of it is going to have evidentiary value.

Then of course there’s the issue of someone trying to “market” the stuff to persons interested in seeing it. For some reason, security and surveillance camera footage has been often turned into a wide variety of “true crime” voyeuristic shows showing snoopy landlords, exhibitionist neighbors and theiving roomates, and certainly the nanny-cam footage has been used in a wide variety of sensationalistic reports. (Note: One woman who was sent to prison for “shaking” a baby was freed when it became clear that the nanny cam had a tendency to leave out a lot of frames, thus creating the illusion of her shaking the child rapidly when she was actually moving more slowly and more gently.)

The concept of marketing videos of persons abusing actual children, no matter the source, to persons who “get off” on seeing child abuse is absolutely abhorrent. It does get worse if it were to be found out that the video was created to fill such a market niche - i.e., that the existence of the market might encourage someone to commit an abuse for the purpose of recording it and selling it.

Now, it does have me wondering whether there is an audience interested in ponying up good money for videos showing cruelty perpetrated upon the marketeers of child- and animal-abuse videos. :s I kinda hope it ends somewhere.

[quote]2. Cruelty to a child intentionally videotaped by or with the consent of the perpetrator. The person doing this sort of thing is possibly already breaking some sort of child-abuse laws, so any video of it is going to have evidentiary value.[/quote]This one is the comparison I was attempting to make to the OP.

It might be good to remove the economic incentives and add a few disincentives. While there will always be sick people who commit cruelties and sick people who want to watch other people’s cruelties, it may be worthwhile to ban it such that the economic risk/reward calculation doesn’t warrant the marketing of any actual cruelties.

Of course to change the supply/demand equation, there’s always going to be somebody who’ll suggest that perhaps the market could be flooded with free realistic-looking CGI or animatronic cruelty, to put the final nails in the marketer’s coffins.