X-rated newsgroups

Danny Yee danny@staff.cs.usyd.edu.au
Mon, 2 Feb 1998 20:03:28 +1100 (EST)


Rocknet Helpdesk <helpdesk@rocknet.net.au> writes:
> We are an ISP in Central Queensland
> 
> We have had our supply of X rated newsgroups stopped by our supplier
> as per the following extract from an email from them...
 
> >We have just had a long phone meeting with our lawyers, and their 
> >advice is to NOT carry any X rated material, therefore we must start to 
> >filter out all smut and "morally questionable" material, and expire the 
> >existing store ASAP.

There is no such thing as an X-rated newgroups.  Check the OFLC
guidelines, if you like, but there is no provision in any of the three
schemes (publications, films/video, and computer games) for rating
newsgroups.  There may, of course, be film-clips *in* a USENET spool which
would (or even has been) rated X by the OFLC, and images which would be
Category 1 or 2 publications.  But ISPs are not censors and are not in a
position to decide how material would be rated; nor should they have to
(any more than Telstra is responsible for lewd phone calls).

ISPs elsewhere in the world have fought and (mostly) won the battle
against being held liable for material on their news servers - certainly
for material they don't know anything about.  Currently in Britain, ISPs
seem to be removing only child pornography, _when_ it has been pointed
out to them.

Since X-rated material is not restricted to particular groups (because
of spamming), and since "X-rated" is fuzzy at the edges, accepting
liability for it will in the long run result in news service being
discontinued entirely.  I think your upstream provider's lawyers have
made a bad boo-boo in recommending that the provider accept liability
for material in Usenet.

> >You're welcome to source a feed of these groups from ACT and NT where 
> >it's legal, however once you're knowlingly storing it on your server 
> >you are breaking current law and will face very large fines if any user 
> >from RockNET or <omitted> reports it to the police.

> >This must finalise the matter, we are not prepared to expose our 
> >business on the whim of one of your users.
 
If by "X-rated" they means alt.sex*, I suspect it's rather more than
"one" of your users, or indeed of theirs.  And they must have unusually
low libidos if they think sex is a "whim" :-).

> Can someone please tell me if there are any such laws/regulations
> governing X-Rated material on the internet in Queensland

Current law may apply; it may not.  I don't believe there have been any
test cases.  (Irene will know better than me the situation in Queensland.)

Danny.