Justices Void Law Banning Videos of Animal Cruelty

In a major and muscular First Amendment ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a federal law that made it a crime to create or sell dogfight videos and other depictions of animal cruelty.

The case arose from the prosecution of Robert J. Stevens, an author and small-time film producer who presented himself as an authority on pit bulls. He did not participate in dogfights, but he did compile and sell videotapes showing the fights, and he received a 37-month sentence under a 1999 federal law that bans trafficking in “depictions of animal cruelty.”

When President Bill Clinton signed the bill, he expressed reservations, prompted by the First Amendment, and instructed the Justice Department to limit prosecutions to “wanton cruelty to animals designed to appeal to a prurient interest in sex.” But since then, the government has used the law in several prosecutions for trafficking in dogfighting videos.
Source

Not a very surprising decision, and I'm not sure it's "major" or "muscular." But that's just reading the article. I haven't browsed the ruling itself yet.

I wonder if the ban on, if there is one, selling videos of actual child abuse and elderly abuse graphics will be voided also. But of course in this Culture of Death we are living in, what else could be expected. Totally disgusting.

[quote="lakotak, post:2, topic:195525"]
I wonder if the ban on, if there is one, selling videos of actual child abuse and elderly abuse graphics will be voided also. But of course in this Culture of Death we are living in, what else could be expected. Totally disgusting.

[/quote]

There are of course child porn laws, but outside of that I'm not aware of any laws that prohibit video depictions of children being abused. I would also assume that most videos of children being say beaten or neglected are educational in nature, which was one of the exceptions in the animal cruelty law this case was about.

The rationale behind the child pornography First Amendment carve out is that creating, distributing, and owning child pornography promotes the illegal sexual abuse of children and therefore contributes to the harm of the victims and undermines the state's power to regulate this atrocious crime. The statute in this most recent case, however, was not so narrow in that it prohibited owning depictions of perfectly legal behavior (e.g., a video where an animal is legally killed even though the video has no serious religious, artistic, educational, journalistic, historical, political or scientific purpose, which could be construed narrowly by prosecutors and the courts). The court was very explicit that it was not ruling on a statute that would ban, or example, only extreme "crush videos" where the animal is intentionally and illegally tortured.

What you're talking about with child abuse would depend on whether the filming of these videos generally promotes the underlying activity (e.g., child pornography videos usually are created with the intent of owning or distributing them for pleasure, so they promote child harm. In some cases, the child would not even be sexually harmed but for the market). So, if for some reason there is a market for watching someone beat a child, such that allowing these acts to be filmed actually promoted the acts themselves, then yes (assuming a narrow statute) I think that could easily be a carve out distinguishable from this most recent case. The thing is, there's no market. (Or, at least I hope not). The purpose of filming the abuse is largely for crime detection, prevention, and reporting.

Chief Justice Roberts concluded his majority opinion by suggesting that a more focused law “limited to crush videos and other depictions of extreme animal cruelty” might survive First Amendment scrutiny.

In it, Chief Justice Roberts said the law was written too broadly. Since all hunting is illegal in the District of Columbia, for instance, he said, the law makes the sale of magazines or videos showing hunting a crime here.

It looks like this law signed by President Clinton banned hunting tapes.

Mr. Pacelle, of the Humane Society, called for a legislative response to Tuesday’s ruling. “Congress should within a week introduce narrowly crafted legislation,” he said, “to deal with animal crush videos and illegal animal fighting activities.”

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