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L.A porn industry may move out of town over condom law

Washington , Tue, 21 Feb 2012 ANI
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Washington, Feb 21 (ANI): Porn film producers are weighing taking legal action or moving out of town when a Los Angeles measure requiring performers to wear condoms will come into effect from 5th March.

 

For decades, the nation's pornographic film industry found a happy, largely accepting home in Los Angeles, but this coexistence has been suddenly shaken by sweeping health regulations that will require porn performers to wear condoms while on location.

 

The landmark law marks a rare attempt to regulate how films are made, threatening an industry that has been a source of millions of dollars in revenue.

 

AIDS activists are gathering signatures for a countywide ballot measure that would extend the ban to dozens of additional communities. The industry, however, is fighting back. Leaders say that they could take legal action against the city or move filming out of town.

 

It's a debate that pits the desire to protect the health of porn actors against the freedom to make films that audiences want to see.

 

The Los Angeles City Council acted earlier this year after a series of incidents in which adult film productions were suspended amid concerns that HIV had been transmitted among performers.

 

Despite the health risks of having unprotected sex on movie sets, the industry has strongly opposed a condom requirement, saying that monthly testing already safeguards performers and that customers won't pay to see such films.

 

"It's certainly a fascinating conundrum," LA Times quoted Jason E. Squire, a USC professor of cinematic arts as saying.

 

"You want all performers, whatever they do, to be safe. That transcends content. I don't know what the proper solution is," Squire said.

 

According to AIDS activists, the fight over condoms is about protecting performers' health and opposing the promotion of unsafe sex.

 

"The fact that porn sends out a message that the only type of sex that's hot is unsafe ... we think that's detrimental," Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said.

 

The Los Angeles law was the result of months of aggressive lobbying by Weinstein and other AIDS activists, who have long called on the government to step in and make the porn workplace safer.

 

The council approved the law only after activists pressured it by gathering enough signatures to ask voters to decide the issue at the ballot box. The industry has been forced to suspend production several times amid reports that adult performers contracted HIV.

 

Porn industry representatives say the law is unnecessary because they regularly test actors for HIV.

 

Steven A. Hirsch of Vivid Entertainment said his company's performers are allowed to use condoms if they want - but most don't.

 

Filmmakers tried requiring condoms on their own in the late 1990s after an HIV scare, but sales began suffering.

 

"The viewers out there don't want to see movies with condoms," Hirsch said.

 

Diane Duke of the adult film lobby group Free Speech Coalition said performers should have the right to have sex as they wish. She compared the issue to boxers who fight for entertainment, even though they risk injury.

 

"The goal of that is to knock someone out - pound them in the head until you knock someone out," Duke said.

 

"This is the first step of government overreach into the way we make movies.

 

"It's clearly the government interfering where it really doesn't belong.... Because our industry deals with sex ... we're vulnerable and easy to attack," Duke said.

 

It's unclear how much money the city would give up if porn producers began leaving. Film L.A., the nonprofit that manages permits, estimates that it issues under 500 a year to adult film companies wanting to shoot on location. Some filmmakers, however, may not bother asking for permits.

 

A survey found that one of the top 10 sites for on-location filming in Los Angeles in 2010 was a Chatsworth porn studio.

 

Even with the condom law, there are still options available to the porn industry. A loophole allows filming without condoms in certified sound stages like ones found at major movie studios.

 

They could also do filming outside the city limits, though it is unclear what kind of welcome they would receive.

 

The mayor of the Ventura County suburb of Simi Valley has already called on his city to draft a mandatory condom policy similar to that of Los Angeles.

 

"The people of our town do not want to be noted for being porn purveyors," Mayor Bob Huber said.

 

Porn producer Hirsch considers the condom requirement "a nuisance more than anything else."

 

"We will continue shooting the movies, and if that means outside of the city of Los Angeles, so be it," he said.

 

However, there may be a legal obstacle to pulling up stakes entirely - porn generally became legal in California after a 1988 state Supreme Court decision ruling that adult film producers shouldn't be prosecuted under anti-prostitution laws.

 

Only one other state, New Hampshire, has had a similar court ruling, issued in 2008.

 

There could also be political resistance in Nevada. As its population has grown and gambling casinos have become parts of major Wall Street-traded entertainment and resort companies, the state has become more economically and socially conservative, said Michael Green, professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada.

 

Additionally, there is plenty of talent in Los Angeles for the adult industry. Some aspiring actors, videographers and sound engineers who arrive here hoping to break into mainstream movies find their way working in adult films. (ANI)

 

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