Adult access to DO ASK DO TELL  (latest comments at end)

            The first three chapters of Do Ask, Do Tell contain a few passages with explicit, very "adult" language referring to sex acts with common vulgarities. In the literary context, they are intended to add to an adult reader's understanding of anti-female and anti-gay attitudes by some young men, especially in the military or in dormitory environments.

Policy as posted in November 1998.

            According to the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, we may not display these passages on a web site without adult verification. Therefore, these passages have been edited to use more generic and generally acceptable vocabulary, so as not to appeal to possible "prurient interest" of minors. These passages are demarcated by a beginning '++' and an ending '+'.

            It is our interpretation that COLPA applies only to content expression, and not to content subject matter per se.

Appendix 8, in relaying the exact text of a proposed 1983 bill in Texas to "reinforce" the state's sodomy law (in a knee-jerk response to AIDS), contains some graphic language and is accessible to all. The fact that this almost became a very draconian state law provides sufficient redeeming social value, even for minors.

            A customer who wants to see the original text may either (1) purchase or otherwise obtain the hardcopy book , or (2) contact us by email (jboushka@aol.com) or phone (612-677-0652) so that we can ask the customer to verify that he or she is 17 years old or older, after which we can provide specific instructions for on-line access (without charge) to the original text.

Remember, with normal life spans, most of us spend over 20% of our lives as minors!

Policy as revised on February 4, 1999.

On February 1, 1999, Judge Lowell Reed of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued a Preliminary Injunction prohibiting enforcement of COPA. It is the opinion of HPPUB that COPA could be replaced by a more narrowly focused law in the near future (or the injunction could be appealed by the Department of Justice). Therefore, we will leave very slight self-censorship in place, to the extent that "vulgar words" will not be used (even in quotes, even for literary effect). A small number of other adult passages without vulgar or disrespectful language have been restored.

Comment as of April 25, 2000:

            Judge Reed’s order is under appeal with the Third Circuit. A decision could come at any time. HPPUB will review its self-censorship policy in accordance with any decision, and such any changes to the site could take as long as 30 days to implement. The reasoning behind the opinion would be considered in determining what steps were necessary.  Nevertheless, HPPUB believes that the minor self-censoring now in place comports with any “harmful to minors” provision in Internet law that could be upheld as constitutional.  

June 23, 2000:

The Third Circuit has upheld Judge Reed’s order (http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/copaapel.htm).

 The decision could be appealed to the Supreme Court or go back to the district court for a full trial.   HPPUB will reconsider whether it needs to keep self-censorship in place. 

The decision was appealed to the Supreme Court and oral arguments will be heard on Nov. 28, 2001.  HPPUB will leave the minor self-censoring in place to stress the idea that censorship must never be based on subject matter itself.

November 28, 2001:

Oral arguments were heard before the Supreme Court. A ruling could come any time before June 30, 2002.  The most important focus of oral arguments concerned whether a “national standard” might exist with respect to “harmful to minors” definitions.

HPPUB would be prepared to make changes to the site in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling within 30 days (calendar) of the ruling.  The actual outcome by vote (upheld or ruled unconstitutional) is not necessarily as important as what the Court writes (interpreting the statute) in its opinions. It may be necessary to place material that proves “value with respect to minors” in the case of a few edgy passages. Legal counsel might be sought first before making decisions.

An extremely unfavorable ruling and accompanying majority opinion could force a web publisher to choose between publishing on-line any “adult subject matter” at all (without credit-card screens) and conducting or “soliciting” any sales or commercial business at all by the same individual business owner. (This might be the case if, say, any discussion of homosexuality could be held as HTM by some “national standard.”) At the same time, publishing non-commercially could still create conflicts of interest with other sources of income. That is, a proprietor would be essentially forced into a position where the site could stay up only if it was operationally profitable. I do not really expect this to happen, and I will do the best that I can. 

May 13, 2002

The Supreme Court has left the injunction in place. Seee http://doaskdotell.com/content/colpa.htm .For the present time, HPPUB does not intend to change the minor self-censoring of DADT text. Customers who want to see the original text without editing are asked to purchase the hard-copy book (http://doaskdotell.com/content/obtain.htm).

The Third Circuit is reexamining other arguments for the case (other than community standards).

January 20, 2003; March 3 2003

Some publishers present books online in non-searchable formats (such as .gif files). This is the case with my DADT books. The standard used by publishers is whether the material is suitable for display to the general public (not just adults) in an unrestricted manner in a conventional bookstore. Theoretically, a different standard could exist for online display of full book text according to this act. A critical point would be the “taken as a whole clause” and that clause would need also to be interpreted for e-books.  If the Act is upheld, we will still try to determine if any ruling affects non-searchable browsing capabilities for books normally thought as suitable for public sale in an unrestricted manner.

March 7, 2003

The Third Circuit has upheld the injunction. HPPUB will leave the self-censorship in place for the time being, on the theory that this is still best for readers (who would still need to obtain original hard-copy to see all of the unedited text). The government can appeal to the Supreme Court.

March 3, 2004.

Oral arguments were held before the Supreme Court again, on the case without the community standards argument. See http://www.doaskdotell.com/copa.htm

April 8, 2004

While I wait for the results from the Supreme Court, I’ll just note that in the Acknowledgements section of the first DADT book that I, when I published it in hardcopy in 1997, recommended it for ages 18 and older or for high school students with parental or teacher involvement. That is fair strict, but the comment is based on the idea that if a theater film were made from the material (especially in the first three chapters) literally, such a film would receive an MPAA rating of “R”. (Actually, though, the minimum age for unaccompanied attendance at an R film is 17).

There has been some controversy over the meaning of “serious value for minors” in the various briefs and oral arguments. I recommend the material on the site (as edited slightly when the book is printed online) for age 14 and higher, that is, more or less like the movie category “PG-13.”  That is, parents with filters should bear this in mind when allowing access to domains for household children under 14. That is based on the idea that age 14, or ninth grade, is the age at which students typically learn to think critically and question the values of others. Students with a proper grounding in academic subjects of English, social studies, foreign language and especially mathematics (at least algebra) with exposure to abstract thinking are more likely to be able to understand controversial material and presentation with some objectivity. Of course, academic standards are a big problem today. In oral arguments, some of the Supreme Court justices have noted the enormous range of maturity among teens, even at any particular age. Several hit Warner Brothers shows (Smallville, Everwood, One Tree Hill, and Seventh Heaven) make a lot of this observation with their teenage characters. Fourteen is also the age where typically a teenager begins to grasp the expectations of the adult world, in terms of consequences of actions.

(There is one proposed screenplay script on this site that would fit the “R” rating category. Please see this link for more information.)

May 2004

I have added Internet content rating metatags generated by icra based on the idea of suitability for age 14 for files xchap1.htm  xchap2.htm xchap3.htm 

(June 5, 2004)

It may take up to thirty days to analyze any Supreme Court ruling (due late spring or early summer 2004) and bring my sites into compliance should portions of the law be upheld or should the injunction be vacated. I will post my detailed interpretation of any ruling, as it would apply to my sites, and then comply with this interpretation. The detailed comments in any opinions of the Justices may be as important as any final “vote count” or end result. Any changes made to material on my own sites do not necessarily imply that similar changes need to be made to my writings on sites hosted by others, because any other such site may have a totally different business or content context and search capability.[1] There is discussion of the March 2, 2004 oral arguments at this link. In any case, I will always have to balance the importance of objectivity and completeness of content with suitability for minors who could view some isolated provocative materials out of context.  Use of respectful terminology is certainly one consideration.

Proof of compliance (if law is upheld)

It would not be easy or economical for a third party to audit the entire site(s) (I have three of them) because of the size and because the items that could come into noncompliance with a likely interpretation of the law are on very few of the files. These places are well known. (6/12/2004)

June 29, 2004. The Supreme Court upheld the injunction, 5-4, but sent the law back to the District Court for full trial. I do not have any planned changes in content at this time yet, but I may have more details to relate by mid July.

ICRA Content ratings

In 1999, when these files were on hppub.com (xchap1.htm, xchap2.htm, xchap3.htm) I applied rating tags for some sexual subject matter (with very little material that is actually sexually explicit). These three files are in the directory /content/  However, since I have not yet rated this domain under its own name on the icra database, I do not think they would filter now.

As of the end of 2005, I am reviewing placing the screenplay directory under a rating system for similar concerns. I will provide details in early 2006. I am reviewing the entire topic of content ratings, as how they can be most effective with today’s issues . I expect to have a scheme for rating some site content in early 2006.

For more, go to http://www.doaskdotell.com/crating.htm

March 22, 2007.

Judge Lowell Reed of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania strikes down COPA in trail on merits. Here is blogger link: http://billboushkafil.blogspot.com/2007/03/copa-judge-reed-strikes-it-down-keeps.html

I have not yet determined what I will do about online display of affected passages (Ch 1, 2, 3 of the first book.)

 

 

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[1] Some retail or publishing sites might need to consider disable internal search capabilities for materials that they know to be sexually explicit. An example is amazon.com and its “search inside the book” feature. However my books, while listed there, do not appear to be internally searchable there.