Arguing Over The Constitutionality Of Online Cockfighting Videos

from the chicken-on-chicken dept

Over the last year or so, the Humane Society's been threatening Amazon.com because a third-party merchant that used its e-commerce platform was selling magazines about cockfighting. The Humane Society contended that the magazines were illegal under the Animal Welfare Act, though Amazon disagreed -- but in any case, since Amazon wasn't the publisher, they didn't seem like the right people to sue. Cockfighting and free speech has come up again now, as a company that sells online cockfighting videos is challenging a federal law that makes it illegal to sell depictions of animal cruelty. The law was enacted in 1999 to combat the sales of "crush videos", which apparently depict women crushing animals to death in order to deliver some sort of sexual stimulation to the viewer. Then-President Clinton instructed the DOJ to enforce the law narrowly, to target such material, even though the law is worded much more broadly. The company says it operates from Puerto Rico, where cockfighting remains legal. It contends that the fights are an accepted part of the culture there, and appears to be claiming that because the fights themselves are legal in Puerto Rico, it should be able to sell videos of them over the internet to users in the rest of the country.

It's a complicated case, since generally, depictions of illegal activity aren't themselves illegal, and don't fall under the exceptions to free speech in the First Amendment. Should the law be upheld, it could establish an interesting precedent for the government being able to limit speech that depicts illegal activities and give the government a useful censorship tool. While it's unlikely it would seek to criminalize the broadcast of surveillance footage of bank robberies, gambling-related content would be a possible target, given the fervor with which online gambling has been attacked. Already, at least one state has tried to crack down on online gambling sites that don't offer gaming, just discussion and links. If this law is upheld, such efforts could receive a boost.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Gary, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 4:42am

    Not that tricky

    Actually, this is not that complicated an issue. Murder is illegal, but there are plenty of books about it including How To books. Marijuana is illegal but there are magazines at Borders dedicated to pot as a lifestyle. Free speech is free speech period. You can't (at least you shouldn't) block some books or mags just because you don't like the content.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 5:06am

    Re: Not that tricky

    Yea, great first example.

    Murder is illegal. But so are snuff films. Oh wait, what are those? Oh, videos of murder. Ok, well...

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 5:07am

    Re: Not that tricky

    keep in mind, this isn't about the magazine issue. its about the video issue.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 5:35am

    Cock fights

    Now, you wacko people from the left coast may be surprised to find out that cock fights involve birds. They're BIRDS... Not people, raising animals to human status is a legally dangerous and slippery slope. Next they'll also have the right to vote.

     

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  5.  
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    BTR1701, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 5:40am

    Re: Re: Not that tricky

    > Murder is illegal. But so are snuff
    > films. Oh wait, what are those?
    > Oh, videos of murder. Ok, well...

    Actually, snuff films aren't illegal. Only the murder that is required to make them is illegal.

    If you think they are illegal, feel free to cite me the law that says so.

    Note that many so-called "snuff" films are sold openly and legally in the USA. I remember watching "Faces of Death" when I was in college, and that's nothing but a collection of clips of people being killed in accidents, committing suicide, or being executed in foreign countries. I found the video to be in extremely poor taste and would never watch another one but it's certainly not illegal.

     

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  6.  
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    Overcast, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 6:39am

    While I don't agree with it at all - the right to free speech needs to be protected. I'm tired of all this 'censor this, censor that' BS.

    There's really no gray area here - you start banning a type of books because Group A doesn't like them - then you have to start banning books other groups disagree with.

    Why don't we just burn any books in the streets that the government deems 'unacceptable'? That's where it will get to - once again.

     

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  7.  
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    Dane, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 7:05am

    The humane society isn't suing because Amazon sells books about cockfighting. They are suing because Amazon is distributing magazines that have advertisements that solicit crime, such as ads for cockfighting pits. The Supreme Court has already ruled that commercial speech does not have first amendment protections when it is being used to facilitate crime.

    As for the videos, I read that law yesterday and it protects any footage that has journalistic, political, artistic, etc. video. It was passed because of pornos where women in high heels were crushing small animals to death. That was someones idea of a fetish.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 7:28am

    Re:

    Why don't we just burn any books in the streets that the government deems 'unacceptable'? That's where it will get to - once again.

    Because then we would all be left with the bible. And I'd rather watch a cock fight than read the bible any day.

     

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  9.  
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    The infamous Joe, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 8:12am

    Freakin' hippies.

    They are suing because Amazon is distributing magazines that have advertisements that solicit crime, such as ads for cockfighting pits.

    No, a third party is using amazon as a storefront to sell magazines *about* cockfighting. This is another problem with local laws and a global marketplace. Cockfighting (it seems) is still legal in Louisiana (until next year) and in other parts of the world (like Mexico and Puerto Rico)-- so our laws don't apply to people in Mexico (or, hell, Louisiana) buying magazines about cockfighting.

    As for videos, the law clearly needs to be thrown out. Upon signing, President Clinton said something like 'Make sure you fellas only use this against sick animal killing porn.' and since then, it's been used against all forms of animal cruelty. So, if the law was only supposed to be against porn (protect the children and furry beasts!) but was worded against everything, then it needs to be rewritten, or revoted on as it is.

     

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  10.  
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    Ajax 4Hire, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 8:29am

    Re: Not that tricky

    So true.
    Distastful, disgusting and dispicable are NOT Illegal.

    Sue Amazon, that is so transparent.
    While you are at it,
    sue the magazine paper mill, provide paper!
    sue the internet provider, provides Amazon connection!
    sue Google for allowing searchs to Amazon site!
    sue Microsoft for providing software to search Google to find Amazon who sells a magazine that you don't like!

    You cannot legislate good sense.

     

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  11.  
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    Scottitude, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 9:57am

    In some countries, the age of consent precedes pubic hair. Following the predominent logic here, if a pornographic film featuring one or more children engaging in "consensual" sex is filmed in one of those countries there's nothing wrong with said film being peddled and purchased in the USA.

    You guys never friggin' cease to amaze me.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re:

    Because then we would all be left with the bible. And I'd rather watch a cock fight than read the bible any day.

    You are a very sick and twisted person...

     

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  13.  
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    chris (profile), Jul 12th, 2007 @ 11:19am

    Re: Re:

    Because then we would all be left with the bible. And I'd rather watch a cock fight than read the bible any day.

    do you know how much violence in in the bible? it would be one of the first works banned.

     

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  14.  
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    anonymouse coward, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 11:20am

    we must draw the line. it's a slippery slope. first they take away our cockfight video, next they want to confiscate our donkey porn!

     

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  15.  
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    Charles Griswold, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 6:04pm

    Re: Burning Books

    Why don't we just burn any books in the streets that the government deems 'unacceptable'? That's where it will get to - once again.
    Because then we would all be left with the bible. And I'd rather watch a cock fight than read the bible any day.
    You're forgetting about all of the people who are offended by the Bible. If everything else was banned you can bet that the Bible would also be banned.

     

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  16.  
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    Charles Griswold, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 6:07pm

    Re:

    we must draw the line. it's a slippery slope. first they take away our cockfight video, next they want to confiscate our donkey porn!
    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 6:16pm

    Re:

    In some countries, the age of consent precedes pubic hair. Following the predominent logic here, if a pornographic film featuring one or more children engaging in "consensual" sex is filmed in one of those countries there's nothing wrong with said film being peddled and purchased in the USA.

    You guys never friggin' cease to amaze me.
    I don't know about you, but I see a major difference between cockfighting videos and child pornography. For one thing, a child is far more important than a chicken.

    And no, you're not winning any points with me by dragging knee-jerk emotional issues (the safety of innocent children) into an argument about cruelty to poultry.

     

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  18.  
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    SailorRipley, Jul 13th, 2007 @ 7:28am

    Re:

    The predominant logic is: videos/depiction of illegal acts (even when using non-fictional footage) are not de facto illegal just because the portrayed act is...

    And in fact, you can actually see this principle at work pretty much any time you watch a non G-rated (and even then) movie or TV-show...

    now, for your knee-jerk emotional bullshit example: it would still be illegal for your film to be peddled and purchased in the USA, because not only the act itself, but also the possession and sale of child porn is forbidden in the USA...in fact, they had to make a special law for that, because guess what, the general principle is: depiction (fictional or non-fictional) of an illegal act is not illegal.

    You should try a lot harder to master logic, or just stop trying altogether...

    As for the topic: personally, I don't think videos/magazines/... should not be censored/forbidden (and although just the thought of child pornography/abuse makes me want to throw up, I do think it should include child porn, because, as so often argued in other circumstances, when you make one exception, however altruistic and pure, you have to allow a million others).

    What should be done, is for example convince Puerto Rico to ban cock fights and prosecute any infraction, the same with said country where the age of consent precedes pubic hair.

     

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  19.  
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    Peleas de Gallo, Feb 24th, 2008 @ 4:40am

    This ain't no chicken shit...

    Cock fighting is legal in several countries, The U.S. really has no right to dictate coliseum operators online/off-line activity, this is absurd! If coliseum owners have a website, chances are, they sell the cock fight videos privately, usually by mail. They will sell it to whoever orders, some let you download it; they ship everywhere and rarely ask any questions. Besides that, you can get these videos on any video sharing social networks, even on Google Video, for crying out loud!!

    If cock fighting videos are illegal in the U.S., then it's the American citizens problem and it should not be the problem of a cock-fight-operator in any way, shape or form.

    Also, there is level of hypocrisy and downright ignorance involved here. There are cultural differences that American legislators simply refuse to accept, they want to impose their belief system on the entire world, which is why so many people hate these RIDICULOUS American policies that only serve to waste tax payer dollars.

    Personally, I don't watch cock fighting but I can appreciate the fact that it is viewed by and large as a sport throughout Puerto Rico, Spain and other Spanish speaking countries. Bull fighting is also a bloody sport involving animals... I don't see US legislators trying to 'regulate' BULLFIGHTING or intervening in one of Spain's favorite national sport! Hypocrisy, hypocrisy, hypocrisy!

    The Humane society is an honorable organization that I have a lot of respect for. They have done so much for animals, fighting animal cruelty and what not. I respect their opinion, however, they should focus their energy on dogs, cats, wales, dolphins, monkey's or animals that are at risk of becoming extinct. Cocks are BIRDS, they have the brain the size of my pinky tip and these birds are raised to be cold blooded killers.

    By the way, these cocks are usually treated like royalty... not all of them, but you should see how owners pamper these creatures. I've witnessed grown men cry upon the unfortunate death of his beloved COCK and let me tell you, it was a sad picture. Although, I am not sure if it was because of the cock or the $250,000 bet he lost. Regardless, the loss of a champion cock can send any man into a deep depression. How's that for love?

    FytFan

     

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  20.  
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    Mike, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:11pm

    Re: Cock fights

    This might not be so bad considering the voteing block we have now!

     

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  21.  
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    country ky boy, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 5:01pm

    I wish these animal rights people would leave everyone alone.All they do is try to take every right away that we have and change it to their benefit.They say its wrong for us to watch and read about cockfighting and anything that pertains to it but,we can let our kids watch people killing each other,growing dope,doing dope,about abortions,but they cant read or watch anything about cockfighting i think its rediculous at some of the things they do.Especially when its part of our very own heritage

     

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