Pa. woman indicted on obscenity charges


This story got some attention last August when it got shut down. The owner has now been indicted:

A woman who authorities say ran a Web site that published graphic fictional tales about the torture and sexual abuse of children has been indicted on federal obscenity charges.

"Use of the Internet to distribute obscene stories like these not only violates federal law, but also emboldens sex offenders who would target children," U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said Wednesday in announcing the charges against Karen Fletcher, 54.

Article here

Funny what is now on the website that got shut down...



Well the woman is pretty f'd up, there is no doubt about that. It'll be interesting to see what happens with the case as it will truly test our free speech rights. Obscenity is such a vague charge that almost anything can fall under it.

If she is convicted, would it not be fair that shows like Law and Order: SVU that cover the topics of sexual abuse of children be taken off the air and charged with obscenity? All the books and movies that have used it to fuel a plot? And of course all the news stories that go into detail on thse issues as well?

is it illegal?

clearly and rightly the acts described would be illegal but is including them in a story actually illegal or is this purely on a morals order? - there are a lot of very well known adult lit websites which do include sections on illegal stuff (incest, non consent etc) which this must have a huge bearing on, unless there's a specific law against describing some acts and not others.

I can't post my opinion here...

...because I haven't read the stuff. Wouldn't know where to find it either. There are tales in some newspapers that are truly shocking, but they are published as news so it is "ok". Hmmmmm.

So I won't comment based on the opinion of a couple (or perhaps a lot) of people from the US. It might just be a culture thing. Or a lawsuit-happiness thing. Or whatever. I dunno.

obscenity, legal definition

The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be:
(a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, Kois v. Wisconsin, supra, at 230, quoting Roth v. United States, supra, at 489;
(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Looks like A, B & C apply. Most people find torturing of children offensiv

Have you ever read...

...Edgar Allen Poe, de Telegraaf, or even Harry Potter?

(if you haven't: the former is an author, the second a newspaper and the latter a fictional character)

C wouldn't apply to any of

C wouldn't apply to any of those examples.

Harry Potter lacks serious

Harry Potter lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value in my opinion.

Harry Potter

Those books have gotten a lot of kids reading. I would say that promoting literacy is a strong political value.

I guess it all comes down to

I guess it all comes down to opinion then doesn't it ?


Funny what is now on the website that got shut down.

Funny how every mention of a URL was censored.

ok well not defending this

ok well not defending this example in any way, since the subject is especially revolting and I haven't seen the site and don't wan5t to go look, but many many websites could be under threat if you want to make those three the definition of what is able to be removed form the web.

All three points are somewhat subjective but accepting that any erotic literature should fall under a) and that c) is entirely subjective what is important is "sexual conduuct specifically defined by the applicable state law". Does that mean that acts illegal in a specific state are not legally the subject of literature?

Re: funny

hopeseekr URLs sent via PM - I didn't think it would be right to post it here but if it is - no problem maybe a mod can let me know... it was pretty easy to find though

complicated subject

It is obviously a complicated subject. There will be those on the edge of the bell curve who will find a pile of shit to have 'artistic value', some would even say that it has merit for the sake of being contrary to popular opinion. I also don't necessarily believe that judges are the ones who should be setting standards for what is obscenity and what isn't -- thought the alternative of some sort of collective vote wouldn't work either. Its obviously a moving line, and the average definition would change with time.

I guess I'll go off on a limb and say something that many will disagree with. I think society has a responsibility to censor morally corrupting media. Not sex, but media that exposes people to violence or sexualized violence or in other ways makes violence attractive. There is a link between violence and violence exposure. Literature sexualizing the torture of children would definitely fall under this category.

I hope the women gets run

I hope the women gets run over by a big truck but censoring written text is wrong in my opinion. Many good examples of literature that could end up banned have been pointed out already I won't expound on that. It just opens to many doors for right wingers to run amuck.

I hope you remember, we have people on tv saying we are in a war amongst ourselves here in the USA. People who are actively seeking wedge issues to eventually censor and persecute people whom they consider unpatriotic, seditious, or immoral. Its really getting scary here for some of us.

I think society has a

I think society has a responsibility to censor morally corrupting media. Not sex, but media that exposes people to violence or sexualized violence or in other ways makes violence attractive. There is a link between violence and violence exposure.

Kind of like China? I would argue that there is a link between religion and violence, I could probably name a dozen wars alone that killed millions of people based around religion. Should we censor that as well?


The issue with obscenity is the sheer vagueness of the law. Almost anything imagineable can fall under it. I personally am not offended by sexual acts, violence, or even Dane Cook on TV. But I am offended by politicians who lie and scam the American public. I am offended by religious leaders who proclaim their self-righteous attitudes on the public and try to change the lives of others by encouraging congressman to make laws.

If you don't want that kind of material on the web, than make a law saying it is illegal. Don't hide behind the obscenity law. It was less than 100 years ago that a girl in a bikini was obscene.

Here is an example of what happens with the obscenity law. This guy had a site that would allow soldiers to post pictures of their experience in Iraq. Showing what war was really like. The federal government couldn't get him for anything, so they had the locals book him for obscenity because he had some naked photos on the site. Nothing worse than what you'd find on tens of thousands of other sites and even HBO late at night.

Rolling Stone Article

not a Bible thumper

MrTurner, I would agree that there is a link between religion and violence too. In fact, most of the violence done on a national or global level has been rationalized by religion. I also agree with you that there should be more definitive laws passed dealing directly with making entertainment out of other people's suffering or violent acts.

Webprofessor, what about written text that directly incites violence? Is that okay? If it isn't then why would text that glorifies it? What if it were a specific ethnic group being targeted instead of children, would that be okay?

I agree with your second paragraph, and I think that is a real danger. I guess that's why we need concrete laws.

Littleman if people don't

Littleman if people don't act on it then they should not be prosecuted for it.

Watched more closely perhaps ? Sure I'll give you that.

I guess its a question of

I guess its a question of individual liberty vs. common good.

individual liberty Vs common good

it is when its as clear cut as this case - aside from certain cases (like this for example there are very few cases where child abuse would be written about as literature in any valid way (at least as a large part of the storyline, a lot of books touch on it I know).

But where you draw the 'common good' line is what interests me, and what the lagal status is of sites which currently host something which might cross that boundary. If you look at a site like, say, literotica (probably the most famous adult lit site) they have categories about things which I'm sure are illegal most places (incest), for things which I'm pretty sure are illegal a lot of places (exhibitionism, gay male) and things which may not be illegal but could well fall under the 'encouraging abuse' section (if Brad Pitt gets stalked by someone who read something in their celeb section a case might be made that they encouraged it).

I'm with Mr Turner on this, in that applying an obscenity law (especially an American one which as far as I can see varies from state to state and tends to be somewhat stricter than the majority of the world) to what can or can't be published is at best awkward.

If its legal to write it and its legal to read it then its presumably legal to publish it (esp in a 'membership' format). If its not legal to write, read or publish then those are the laws that prosecution should be made under.

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