LOS ANGELES—Tuesday, April 12 was porn day for Los Angeles city committees. This morning, the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee addressed the city attorney’s report on ways the city might be able to require condom use on all porn sets through the film permit issuing process, which AVN’s Mark Kernes has covered here, and the same committee also took up the issue of pornography viewing on computers in city libraries.
Committee members are being asked to consider a motion filed Jan. 21 by Los Angeles City Councilman Ed P. Reyes that was inspired in part by an indecent at the city’s Chinatown branch of the public library, during which porn being watched by someone on the library computer was seen by other patrons.
“The computer being used was in plain view of the circulation desk where several adults and children were able to see the graphic images as they checked out and returned library books,” wrote Reyes, in the motion. “Although library staff has since moved the computer to an area where the screen images cannot be seen by patrons, the issue of viewing pornography on library computers remains.”
Though news accounts or a transcript of today’s meeting is not yet available, it is likely the issue will remain in limbo following the meeting. That is because Reyes in his motion only asked fellow committee members to receive a report he requested from the Library Department about the Chinatown incident, and a report from the City Attorney “with the City’s legal options to address the viewing of pornography on public computers at the City’s neighborhood libraries while being cognizant of the First Amendment rights of all citizens.”
Neither report has been posted to the city clerk’s webpage for this action— Council File: 11-0113—most likely because neither has been written yet. Still, the motion notes that the Library Department has already concluded that the First Amendment precludes it from prohibiting a city library from viewing pornography on city computers, and that issues only arise when illegal pornography such as child pornography is accessed or, as with the Chinatown incident, the viewing of legal porn is viewable by other patrons.
Sometimes, Reyes wrote, “… a person viewing pornography tries to engage other patrons while doing so. In these instances, LAPD may be called and /or the viewer may be told to exit the library. However, as long as they are viewing legal pornography and keeping it to themselves, it is not prohibited.”
He added, “These actions affect all library patrons, but, more significantly, it leaves children vulnerable to viewing offensive images which can affect them for years to come.”
Reyes also raised the subject of filters, which are not currently used on city library computers, because “the consensus in the library industry is that filters are either under- or over-filtering material.”
Regarding the right of the city to ban porn from its libraries, UCLA Constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh said it may very well be able to do so legally.
"Clearly the city is entitled to decide what books to buy for libraries,'' Volokh said. “The city could also just say this is not something we want to spend taxpayer money on. If the issue had to do with view points, like blocking access to racist sites, that argument probably would not fly.”
The U.S. Supreme Court, he added, “has not squarely dealt with the issue. U.S. v. American Library Association (2003) did address the issue, ruling that it is constitutional for libraries to use internet filters to block porn until a patron asks for it to be unblocked, but it did not rule on the wholesale blocking of porn on public library computers.
According to the Los Angeles Times, even Reyes understands that the issue is a relatively minor one, especially considering that the Chinatown incident is the only one of its kind to be reported.
"I don't want to make it more than what it is, but how many incidents have not been reported'' Reyes asked. “Why not create a layout that allows screens and images to be shielded?''
Councilman Reyes' motion can be accessed here.