Cockfighting webcasters challenge law against depictions of Internet cruelty

Cockfighting webcasters challenge law against depictions of Internet cruelty

Summary: Cockfighting is illegal in 49 states and it's a federal crime to sell depictions of animal cruelty. But Advanced Consulting and Marketing webcasts its cockfights from Puerto Rico, where it's legal, and the company claims, the federal law is violation of its First Amendment rights, The New York Times reports.

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Cockfighting is illegal in 49 states and it's a federal crime to sell depictions of animal cruelty. But Advanced Consulting and Marketing webcasts its cockfights from Puerto Rico, where it's legal, and the company claims, the federal law is violation of its First Amendment rights, The New York Times reports.

The question of whether the First Amendment allows the government to ban depictions of illegal conduct, as opposed to the conduct itself, is a difficult one, legal experts said.

"We believe firmly that broadcasting and selling legal cockfighting over the Internet is not a crime,” said David O. Markus, a lawyer for the company, which runs the site www.toughsportslive.com. "As bullfighting is part of Spanish culture and as violent human fighting is part of our culture, cockfighting is part of Puerto Rican culture."

A Virginia man who was sentenced to three years for selling videotapes of dog fights is also challenging the law, which makes it a crime to sell depictions of “conduct in which a living animal is intentionally mutilated, maimed, tortured, wounded or killed.”

The cockfighting Web site, which calls itself “the #1 rooster fighting network in the world” and sells package deals that also allow subscribers to see women in bikinis shooting large guns, seems unlikely to qualify. The law was enacted in response to so-called “crush videos,” in which, according its legislative history, women “talking to the animals in a kind of dominatrix patter” crushed them “with their bare feet or while wearing high-heeled shoes.”

President Clinton issued a signing statement that the law should be construed narrowly against “wanton cruelty to animals designed to appeal to a prurient interest in sex.” But the government has been prosecuting the law broadly, going after dog fight videotapers.

In the Virginia case, a federal judge upheld the law in an oral ruling in 2004. The defendant, Robert J. Stevens, has appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Prosecutors in the case said the 1999 law was a constitutional abridgement of speech, similar to laws prohibiting obscenity, child pornography, incitement and fighting words. The law, their brief said, “prohibits a new class of speech, so lacking in value, that it should not receive First Amendment protection.”

Lawyers for Mr. Stevens argued that the 1999 law was so vague that it could apply to hunting and fishing. One of the tapes Mr. Stevens sold, they added, showed dog fighting in Japan, where they said the practice was legal.

Topics: Government US, Browser

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5 comments
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  • The problem with new laws is not what they do . . .

    . . .it's what they can be TWISTED to do.

    I look forward to prosecutions of PETA and ALF, who distribute video by the thousands of animals being "intentionally" killed, and experiencing what the PETA people call "torture."
    critic-at-arms
  • Semantics

    This knucklehead is playing with words, to wit: ?As bullfighting is part of Spanish culture and as violent human fighting is part of our culture, cockfighting is part of Puerto Rican culture.?

    First of all, if that is part of their culture then fine, there's nothing anyone can do about that, but to import depictions of these barbaric practices into the USA, for money, is nothing more than profiteering; this isn't an issue of noble principles, such as the support of the 1st amendment, but pure mercenary greed.

    And yes, I did say "barbaric", in regard to cockfighting, dog fighting, bull fighting or any other so called sport that engages animals in displays of bloody cruelty. While boxing, wrestling, football, hockey or any number of "violent" human sports is acceptable here in the USA, these are engaged in by human beings who have a choice in the matter and the ability to recognize the potential consequences. These sports are also heavily regulated here, such that there are rules of conduct and sanctions for their violation.

    I think anyone who actually enjoys watching animals being forced to tear each other to ribbons is a sociopath, and only a very small step away from the torture and maiming of human beings. This is a well-known profile of serial killers and violent sex offenders...they very often start out by torturing animals. This lawyer squawking about the 1st amendment "rights" of his clients is nothing more than an enabler of violence and cruelty, which cannot be allowed in a society that calls itself civilized.
    maxtheaxe
    • Excellent post (nt)

      Carl Rapson
      rapson
    • Addendum

      I would have to add that while boxing (and its more extreme forms such as "ultimate fighting") is, as you say, different in that the participants choose to be involved, I do wonder about those who enjoy watching such things. It seems to me that a "civilized" person wouldn't get a thrill from watching 2 men beat each other up.

      Carl Rapson
      rapson
  • follow-uo

    I think that the word "semantics" is not quite what I was getting at...

    One of the items I am really getting at here is something that I view as a sort of 'reverse racism', to wit... Evidently, according to these lawyers, it is OK to engage in these horrific forms of 'entertainment' as long as one is Puerto Rican (or Spanish or Mexican or whatever). This is a prima facie assumption of barbarity which includes a whole nation of people. I really hope that this is not the case, but in the real world, I suspect that it is true to some extent.

    If it really is true that Puerto Ricans enjoy watching animals being forced to maul one another, then one might infer from this that all Puerto Ricans are bloodthirsty, sociopathic detriments to civilized society...again, I pray that this is not the actual case, but according to this lawyer, it's OK to do this as long as they are Puerto Rican because it's a "cultural thing".

    Regardless, it is incumbent upon those reponsible for maintaining the Laws of the Land in the USA to utterly reject any notion that the depiction of cruelty to animals is somehow a test case for the integrity of the 1st Amendment. The lawyers involved in presenting these atrocitiies in this light are engaged in nothing less than the perversion of the tenets of Free Speech in order to generate profit from the suffering of innocents.
    maxtheaxe