Thursday, October 20, 2005

Will It Hold Up?

The pornographer who allowed soldiers free access to porn in exchange for gory images of Iraqis has been arrested on 300 counts of obscenity in Florida. The twist? He was arrested in Florida by his local sheriff. . .When his servers and site are not based there. Here is what the Sheriff has to say:

"This might be the first [case we've dealt with] where the alleged server is out of the country," Judd said. "But it makes no difference, because if you fed that server or you could receive information off that server in this county, then it gives us jurisdiction. ... Technically I could charge someone in Kansas, if I received child pornography here, obtained a warrant and had him extradited from Kansas and tried here."


Judd acknowledged that different communities have different standards. "I have heard descriptions vary from area to area in the country but obscene [in] our community standards goes beyond nude men and women ..., " Judd said. "When we've made cases, we have gone much further than what one judge refers to as 'normal, good old-fashioned sex.' ... We look for outrageous conduct that shocks the conscience of the community. That's all we bring before the court."

That's one powerful County Sheriff, isn't it? The Cyber Crime Law blogger has more if your interested in the law that's in place. This is a kind of case that is becoming more frequent nowadays, the clash between real-world bounded jurisdictions and the boundless web. While this man is despicable in the fact that he has traded essentially real-world snuff, does the Sheriff have a right to arrest him where he lives, even if his alleged crime, putting this stuff on the internet, is being carried out and operated from somewhere else? Or just because he posted it, even if he doesn't live there (since that's another argument the Sheriff implies). Just because it might be viewed by someone possibly in the county? Where does it all end?

This isn't the sort of thing most judges nowaday are hip to, and if they uphold this Sheriff's actions police everywhere will be empowered to arrest people for anything that appears on the internet regardless of where they live or where the internet server is based. In one sense, this puts a challenge to the old Supreme Court chesnut about pornography being based on "community standards." When the web creates one GIANT community, how do you apply that notion?