Librarians Allowing Porn Viewing Making Headlines

2 similar stories from the west coast caught my eye this week:
Librarians stand aside as patron watches porn from The Malibu Library in CA.
Seattle library lets man watch porn, despite complaint from Seattle, WA.

"But what I find ironic is that you can't talk too loudly at the Seattle Public Libraries or you'll be asked to keep it down so as not to distract the other patrons. You know, the patrons viewing pornography."

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Legally...?

Are the librarians arguments correct? I suppose we need a lawyer to weigh in on it.

Our library doesn't allow people to look at porn. We were told its illegal to view or display pornographic images in an area where anyone under 18 can see them. Since children and teens have free reign to go wherever they want in our building, that means that any porn viewing would be illegal because you have to assume that a child could see it.

It works for us.

The legal argument...

...as thin as it is, was denied by the Supreme Court in 2010.

LIBRARIANS---you are no longer "required by the Constitution" to allow access to porn. That is a bogus claim. If you want to provide access to porn, come up with a better argument.

Supreme Court

From the Malibu article:

“We have an official policy that was established by the Board of Supervisors, developed in accordance with Supreme Court rulings,” Margaret Donnellan Todd, County Librarian, told The Malibu Times Monday. “On adult computers we have a filter for visually explicit sexual material. Users can ask us to remove that filter, which we must do-it's a Supreme Court ruling.”

***

United States, et al. v. American Library Association, Inc. et al., 539 U.S. 194, 123 S.Ct. 2297, 156 L.Ed.2d 221 (2003): The Supreme Court upheld the Children's Internet Protection Act, which requires libraries receiving federal funds for Internet access to install filters so that both adult and child patrons cannot access materials considered obscene, child pornography, or "harmful to minors." Chief Justice Rehnquist announced the judgment of the court that the law, on its face, is Constitutional. Speaking for a plurality of four justices, Rehnquist held that CIPA was a valid exercise of Congress' spending power and did not impose an unconstitutional condition on public libraries that received federal assistance for Internet access because Congress could reasonably impose limitations on its Internet assistance, and because any concerns over filtering software's alleged tendency to erroneously "overblock" access to constitutionally protected speech were dispelled by the ease with which library patrons could have the filtering software disabled. Justices Kennedy and Breyer concurred with the judgment, holding that CIPA, while raising First Amendment concerns, did not violate the First Amendment as long as adult library users could request that the Internet filter be disabled without delay.
Source: http://www.ala.org/offices/oif/firstamendment/courtcases/courtcases

Assuming this summary is correct you have to shut off filters so people can access constitutionally protected speech. There is no ruling that porn is constitutionally protected speech. Unlock the filter and then if the adult is porn surfing eject them from the library. If there are doing legitimate research that was being blocked by the filter (e.g. some kind of medical research) you let them stay.

Actually, the Supreme Court

Actually, the Supreme Court *has* ruled that the First Amendment protects sexually explicit speech that has not been found obscene by a court of law. See, for example, the court's opinion in Sable Communications v. FCC:

"Sexual expression which is indecent but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment; and the federal parties do not submit that the sale of such materials to adults could be criminalized solely because they are indecent. The Government may, however, regulate the content of constitutionally protected speech in order to promote a compelling interest if it chooses the least restrictive means to further the articulated interest. We have recognized that there is a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors. This interest extends to shielding minors from the influence of literature that is not obscene by adult standards. Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. 629, 639 -640 (1968); New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747, 756 -757 (1982). The Government may serve this legitimate interest, but to withstand constitutional scrutiny, "it must do so by narrowly drawn regulations designed to serve those interests without unnecessarily interfering with First Amendment freedoms. Hynes v. Mayor of Oradell, 425 U.S., at 620 ; First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 786 (1978)." Schaumburg v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 444 U.S. 620, 637 (1980). It is not enough to show that the Government's ends are compelling; the means must be carefully tailored to achieve those ends.

In Butler v. Michigan, 352 U.S. 380 (1957), a unanimous Court reversed a conviction under a statute which made it an offense to make available to the general public materials [492 U.S. 115, 127] found to have a potentially harmful influence on minors. The Court found the law to be insufficiently tailored since it denied adults their free speech rights by allowing them to read only what was acceptable for children. As Justice Frankfurter said in that case, "[s]urely this is to burn the house to roast the pig." Id., at 383. In our judgment, this case, like Butler, presents us with "legislation not reasonably restricted to the evil with which it is said to deal." Ibid. "

Given that the Supreme Court extended full First Amendment protections to the Internet in Reno v. ACLU, a 9-0 decision, there is a legitimate concern that the public library, bound by the First Amendment like every other government agency, would need to disable filters to access any Constitutionally protected speech, including "indecent, but not obscene" speech.

Patrons bad Internet choices

It never occurred to me that we could monitor what people looked at or that I should stop them from making bad choices.

Other people

>>It never occurred to me that we could monitor what people looked at or that I should stop them from making bad choices.

If this is being done in front of other people there are times when a librarian needs to step in.

If a co-worker (librarian) were openly looking at inappropriate material would the administration of the library just ignore it?

If they don't ignore for the librarian why would they ignore if someone is looking at inappropriate material in front of other patrons.

Another thing I find funny is that I bet the comment above about "it never occurred to me" is being made by some librarian in a job sheltered from the public and they don't have to actually deal with people openly looking at inappropriate material. It is great to be all ivory tower when you don't actual have to deal with this stuff.

We are not talking roman statue nudes here. It never occurred to you that if someone is viewing pictures of one person ejaculating on another person in front of other patrons (possibly including children patrons) that there might not be a problem? We really should post someone graphic porn on LISNEWS and see which images librarians are willing to say - "I would gladly expose all my patrons to that."

This is not the type of image we are talking about.

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