Books Subject to Governmental Approval

The Book Standard reports that the House of Representatives have added a clause to the Children’s Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act of 2005 in which books which offer “any visual depiction of simulated or sexually explicit conduct” or are “produced in whole or in part with materials which have been mailed or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, or is shipped or transported or is intended for shipment or transportation in interstate or foreign commerce” must, as with pornography, report every performer portrayed in a visual depiction. In other words, if a photograph appears in a book depicting anything considered “sexually explicit” (a term that isn’t even defined by H.R. 4472, which suggests that this could apply to an innocuous image of two men kissing), the government wants to track your participation.

Of course, such a Stalinistic tactic does not, in fact, run directly counter to the First Amendment, but this does raise serious questions about whether certain performers might be audited or “investigated” simply because their work is considered “sexually explicit” by the U.S. government. Consider an author like William T. Vollmann, who regularly features provactive photographs by Ken Miller in his work, in an effort to chronicle the poor and the prostitutes. Will future editions of The Royal Family now have to be eviscerated of these photos?


  1. Thanks for the information. I hadn’t heard this anywhere else.

    One can only hope that if this bill becomes law, the superconservatives who now dominate the federal courts — and make up the majority of the Supreme Court — will actually follow their supposed principles enunciated in the Lopez and Morrison decisions and overturn this law as being every bit as unrelated to the federal power to regulate interstate commerce as were the Gun-Free School Zones Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

  2. I just realized how stupid my last comment was. Obviously there’s a nexus to interstate commerce here. It would have to be a first amendment challenge, I guess. Forgive me, it’s early in the morning and outrage scrambles my brain at this hour.

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