WASHINGTON, DC – Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) introduced new legislation today that would serve to require websites that contain “material that is harmful to minors” to operate from a new Top-Level Domain. The senators suggest .xxx as an example of such a domain, and a press release on Pryor’s website makes it clear that this bill is targeting adult entertainment, despite the fact that the language of the bill would require sites that offer other forms of “harmful matter” to operate from the new TLD, as well.The purpose of the new bill, which Baucus and Pryor have coined the “Cyber Safety for Kids Act of 2006,” is stated as: “To faciliatate the protection of minors using the Internet from material that is harmful to minors, and for other purposes.”
The bill specifies that the new TLD should have “a domain name appropriate for its purpose,” and while the language of the bill does not specify that the new TLD has to be .xxx, the only example of such a domain name cited is .xxx.
“The new domain shall have a domain name that ends in a manner that allows a user of the Internet to understand that by accessing such domain, a user is likely to view material that is harmful to minors, such as domain name ending in .xxx,” it states in under the section “Requirements for New Domain.”
The press release on Pryor’s website is more explicit in its call to have the new TLD be .xxx.
“Senators Mark Pryor and Max Baucus (D-MT) today introduced legislation to require Web sites with adult content to have an .xxx domain that only adults can access,” the release states.
What the press release does not mention, but is clear in the language of the bill, is that materials other than pornography would be subject to the new legislation.
Under the “Definitions” section of the bill, quoted at length below, an expansive definition of “material that is harmful to minors” would clearly apply to a great deal of material not typically associated with, or labeled as, “adult content.”
Under Section 8, “Definitions” the bill states:
“The term ‘material that is harmful to minors’ means any communication, picture, image, graphic image file, article, recording, writing or other matter of any kind that is obscene, or that a reasonable person would find –
(A) taking the material as a whole and with respect to minors, is designed to appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient interest;
(B) depicts, describes or represents, in a manner patently offensive with respect to minors
(i) an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual conduct;
(ii) an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act; or
(iii) in a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast; and
(C) taking the material as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”
The bill calls on ICANN to select an entity to “establish, operate and maintain” the new TLD, and includes some detail as to how the selection process should unfold, and provides for limitation of liabity for the operator of the TLD, as well as indeminification from being considered a “speaker” with regards to the material posted to individual sites on the new TLD by owners and operators of the individual.
Under Section 4, “Use of New Domain” the bill states that “Commencing not later than 6 months after the establishment of the new domain under section 2, any operator of a commercial Internet website or online service that has as its principal or primary business the making available of material that is harmful to minors shall register such website or online service with the new domain and operate such a website or service under the new domain.”
The bill does not specify what sort of penalties would be applicable for violators of the new TLD’s policies, but does identify the Secretary of Commerce as the responsible authority.
Under Section 6, “Enforcement”, the bill reads as follows:
“Any person who violates Section 4, or any requirement, registration criteria, or limitation applicable to a registrant to the new domain under section 2(b), shall be subject to such civil penalties as the Secretary of Commerce shall prescribe.”
The bill further states that “The Secretary of Commerce shall have the power to enforce the provisions of this title, including –
(1) any requirements or limitations applicable to a registrant to the new domain under section 2(b); and
(2) the imposition and collection of civil penalties under subsection (a).”
The Bill also provides for “periodic audits” to be conducted by the Secretary of Commerce to “ensure compliance”.
“Pryor said he believes a separate domain on the Internet for pornography will help parents filter their children’s access to inappropriate materials,” states the press release on Pryor’s website. “Pryor and Baucus’ legislation, the Cyber Safety for Kids Act, would require the Secretary of Commerce to negotiate with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to develop a special domain name for websites containing adult content. ICANN, an international Nongovernmental Organization, is charged with selecting domain names, such as .com, .org, .net., edu. and .gov. Under the legislation, companies that fail to register with the new domain within 6 months would be subject to civil penalties.”
“While the Internet is an exceptional learning tool, it allows children the same easy access to websites about space shuttles as it does for pornography. Turning a blind eye to this problem has allowed the online pornography industry to expand and enabled kids to view adult content at very young ages,” Pryor said. “By corralling pornography in its own domain, our bill provides parents with the ability to create a ‘do not enter zone’ for their kids.”
Full text of the Bill can be found here.