Henry Hyde's (R., Ill.) proposal, the language of which was still changing at press time, greatly toughens laws regulating the sale of "explicit sexual" or "violent" pictures, films, books, pamphlets, recordings and magazines.
UP TO 5 YEARS IN PRISON
Anyone who "knowingly and for monetary consideration sells, sends, loans or exhibits" certain products to a minor would face a jail term of up to five years. The products are defined as sexual or explicit violent material which an average person would view "as a whole and with respect to minors is designed to appeal or pander to the prurient, shameful or morbid interest."
The proposal defines "sexual material" as including visual, verbal or narrative accounts of "human male or female genital, pubic area or buttocks with less than a full opaque covering; a female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any portion thereof below the top of the nipple" and "acts of masturbation."
Violent material is defined as "sadistic or masochistic flagellation," "torture," "acts of mutilation of the human body or rape."
"Chairman Hyde's motives are laudable. But tearing up the Constitution is the wrong way to achieve that goal," said Jack Valenti, president-CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. "If you're going to punish someone for breaking a law, you must define the crime he violated."
John Fithian, an attorney who represents the National Association of Theatre Owners, said the amendment imposes unrealistic burdens on sellers of videos, magazines, movies or music.
"This bill requires many small business owners to be experts in constitutional law. If they make a mistake in analyzing what is constitutional and what is not, they go to jail for 5 years," he said. "I can think of very few speech curbs that would chill more free speech than Rep. Hyde's bill.
PARENTS COULD BE AFFECTED
"A guy working in a kiosk in Cleveland, a librarian that lets a 16-year-old see something -- it may even cover a parent," he noted.
Hal Shoup, exec VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said that while the legislation doesn't directly mention advertising, it could by implication cover ads.
"It tends to demand subjective judgments. Who decides? That is the kind of language that bothers us," Mr. Shoup said.
Jim Cregan, exec VP of the Magazine Publishers of America, said his group was still reviewing the legislation but expressed concern.
Rep. Hyde's amendment also requires marketers of music to provide copies of lyrics to their retailers and requires them in turn to allow adult customers to