March 24, 2005

Utah Censorware Law (HB 260) - subsidy to Religious Right lobbyists?

Besides amusingly funding a free hardcore pornography site list, the Utah state HB 260 censorware law has a very strange provision for spending tax money. First, they want publicity:

Section 10. Appropriation.

(1) (a) There is appropriated for fiscal year 2005-06 only, $100,000 from the General Fund to the Division of Consumer Protection for public service announcements advising consumers about the dangers of using the Internet.

[$100,000 is not exactly chump change]

(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that the money appropriated in Subsection (1)(a) shall be used to publicize in various forms of media:

(i) the dangers of using the Internet, especially Internet pornography;

[I can just see it - "This is Internet pornography. This is your brain on Internet pornography!"]

(ii) steps a consumer may take to learn more about the dangers of using the Internet;

[as in, buy censorware ...]

(iii) information about how a service provider can help a consumer learn more about the dangers of using the Internet, including the service provider's duties created by this bill; and

[... which this law requires the ISP to market to you at cost]

(iv) how a consumer can monitor the Internet usage of family members.

[and spyware too]

But elsewhere, there's a provision:

(2) Monies appropriated under Subsection (1) shall be paid by the Division of Consumer Protection to a person only if:

(a) the person is a nonprofit organization; and
(b) the person agrees to spend private monies amounting to two times the amount of monies provided by the Division of Consumer Protection during each fiscal year in accordance with Subsection (1).

This seems an odd requirement to me. Does anyone in my vast audience of many dozens of readers, know the significance of that "private monies amounting two times" requirement? (I miss the days when there were good mailing-lists for this sort of query). As I read it, if Utah pays $1, the organization has to spend an additional $2 itself. That apparently makes the number of eligible organizations rather small, and of a particular type. How many nonprofit organizations are there which want to spend a large amount of their own money on "the dangers of using the Internet, especially Internet pornography"? Frankly, I wonder if that's in effect a give-away to Religious Right lobbyists.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 24, 2005 06:53 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I may have mentioned to you that I raided the Brookline Public Library for some of their books on the censorship of the movie industry. You have helped me out enough on Civilities, I thought I'd pitch in here.

So, the funding equation provides the state with a rationale that they are not providing a majority of the funding.

The Motion Pictures Production Code went into effect in 1930. This is from Frank Walsh's 1996 Sin and Censorship: Joe Breen asked Will Hays for $50,000 to advertise the introduction of the Code in Catholic newspapers, but this was not really needed. Breen just contacted many of the newspapers personally, and half of them endorsed the Code.

Now, what were the annual budgets of the Hays Office take in? Can't find that, but in Murry Schumach's 1964 The Face on the Cutting Room Floor, he came up with a current figure that the movie industry paid $1.5M in censorship fees to the government, and not all of this went to salaries. An unnamed governor explained that the censorship jobs went to political sensors who worked "without salary or fee, they enjoy the authority." Or maybe they just enjoyed seeing the movies uncut.

So on that point... I might suggest that a group called "GrooveOn" or something create an ad contest. I think that these can be artfully done.


Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at March 24, 2005 09:42 PM

Brilliant as usual, Seth. I'd stopped reading Infothought for a while due to my RSS reader becoming nagware and my real life taking over, and when I come back I'm greeted with all sorts of great analysis of the Utah bill that I'd heard about. Very interesting indeed. Keep it up. (Oh, and "this is your brain on Internet pornography" just about made me fall off my chair laughing).

Posted by: Dave at March 27, 2005 02:04 PM