LOS ANGELES—According to sources who attended the AIDS Healthcare Foundation's press conference this morning regarding its California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, AHF president Michael Weinstein confirmed that a provision in the new ballot initiative will allow private citizens to sue performers for not wearing a condom.
Weinstein had planned the press conference to announce that the initiative had the required number of signatures to qualify for the ballot, and that he had filed seven new Cal/OSHA investigations into adult productions which didn't use condoms. However, the AHF head found himself on the defensive when Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) secretary* Ela Darling called in to ask Weinstein about what the Free Speech Coaltion (FSC) has termed the “Sue a Porn Star” provision of the law.
“How would you address adult performers who are afraid of the provision that allows private citizens to sue us for the work that we do?” Darling asked. “This would basically allow stalkers and harassers to sue us.”
“The right to sue is not [to sue] the performers, it’s [to sue] the producer,” Weinstein replied.
“But performers create their own content,” Darling explained, referring to performers who cam, sell clips to fans or own a personal website.
Weinstein was unequivocal.
“If they’re not following the [condom] laws, they’re subject to the same laws as anybody else.”
When Darling attempted to talk about how this provision might be used by stalkers and harassers, and explain why performers were fearful, Weinstein cut her off: “I believe I’ve answered your question.”
According to FSC spokesperson and journalist Michael Stabile, who was in attendance, a reporter from a local news team seemed flummoxed, and asked Weinstein to clarify. “So if they own their own content or work for themselves and choose not to [use a condom] then they’re okay?”
“No.” Weinstein corrected him. Even cam performers would indeed be considered producers, and thus subject to such lawsuits unless “they’re doing a solo masturbation scene.”
The initiative’s enforcement provision allows any private citizen of the state of California to file a civil lawsuit if they watch a scene that does not use condoms, and creates a profit motive for such lawsuits (plaintiffs receive 25 percent of any judgement, and have their legal fees paid for by the performer they sued).
For many performers, of course, stalkers are an everyday threat. In addition to the profit incentive, any lawsuit against a performer would expose the performer's legal name and home address, and give a stalker access to the performer through court appearances. Stalkers could also use the threat of a lawsuit to coerce a performer.
In a conversation after the press conference, Stabile reported, Weinstein expressed disbelief that very many performers would be affected by the producer regulation. When he suggested that as many as 90 percent of performers engage in their own production, and would thus be vulnerable, Weinstein replied that it could be fixed later, after the initiative is passed.
Asked for further comment, Darling said, "I wondered what Weinstein would say to performers who are afraid for their safety and privacy because of the provision that allows anyone to sue us for the work we do. What would he advise we do when our harassers and stalkers are given access to our lives and can sue us for doing our jobs. He didn't seem to understand that we would be impacted by this from the regular work we do in maintaining our websites, clips stores, and performing in cam shows.
"Weinstein trumpets his concern for performer safety while throwing us to the wolves, and this law would reward him for that work with a state position that he can't even be fired from," she continued. "I'm very afraid of the ways this would give access to the people who have harassed me because of my work. It's like real-life trolling. The people who send me nasty emails because they want the intimacy of an angry response will now be able to continue that kind of harassment in person and get paid for it. It's such an alarming day for porn."
*Change made to correct Ela Darling's title