Maiden Voyages: June 2016

(Last Updated On June 17, 2016)

There has been a lot of drama this past month.

A Disturbing Precedent: On May 11th, an organization called FSM-Hotline, sent a request to Pigtails in Paint’s service provider to have two pages removed from the site: ‘Stolen Dreams and the Japanese School’ and the ‘Dream Girls’ companion page. Since service providers tend to err on the side of caution and give themselves liberal discretion in interpreting the Terms of Service (TOS), they have directed us to clause prohibiting, “child pornography or content perceived to be child pornography”. The problem is that Pigtails’ mission is to work to alter those very misperceptions and yet we must somehow operate under these arbitrary standards. Nonetheless, to prevent being summarily shut down, we have complied with the request.

The Charge: According to the complaint, the pages contain material that are “potentially criminal” under German Criminal Code. FSM claims that German law enforcement concurs with their assessment, but the statement is ambiguous. It is also unfortunate that the service provider decided to respect a request from a watchdog organization rather than an appropriate law enforcement agency. Even law enforcement agencies have a tendency of misjudging situations (out of ignorance) and take actions that are later thrown out in court. The proper authority for making a removal request ought to be an agency belonging to the court system. Additionally, the request should be made from a U.S. agency, under whose law we are supposed to be operating. It is impractical to have to comply with the myriad laws that may vary from country to county. Issues of jurisdiction aside, an article quoting a real law expert in Germany seems to confirm that the ‘Stolen Dreams’ post is actually legal in that country and would not have precipitated legal proceedings.

The Organization: FSM-Hotline and its parent organization INHOPE are private charities and are being deceptive when they make such strongly-worded requests. Like many such organizations, they probably do submit reports to law enforcement but do not have any special standing with them. It is disconcerting that such a vigilante group should have this kind of sway on what is presented on the internet, given their highly-prejudiced standard that demonstrates less expertise than Pigtails in Paint itself. Any readers who want to protest FSM’s actions—accusing this site of hosting Child sexual abuse material (Child Pornography)—should do so by email and refer to unique report number 54892: hotline@fsm.de

Our Action: Ideally, we want visual materials to be available to the public so it can judged on an individual basis and not filtered by the biases of those who purport to represent the average person or a moral code. When time allows, a text-only version of the ‘Stolen Dreams’ post will be published with a paragraph explaining the situation. We will also be shopping for a new service provider who can be counted on not to cave in to such insubstantial and ill-informed pressure. Ideally, Pigtails should be formally sponsored by an established art or academic institution that would help allay any questions of legitimacy. If successful, we hope to republish the post intact at a later date. A PDF version of the post will be made available to prospective service providers and/or sponsors as needed.

Please help us resist these efforts to suppress legitimate material that allows our detractors to diminish our effectiveness bit by bit.

An Impending Conflagration: On May 23rd and 24th, a final hearing was held in the Isleworth Crown Court between Graham Ovenden‭ ‬and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. The hearing was dedicated to making a final determination regarding the destruction of historical and art photographs and a number of graphic works created by the artist. The hearing was conducted by senior Judge McGregor-Johnson who was flanked by two others, Ms. S. McGregor and Mrs. A. Newmark.‭ ‬Barrister Robert Linford and Solicitor T.J. O’Callighan‭ ‬represented the appellant, graciously offering their services free of charge. The biggest objection at the proceedings was the simple fact that there is no legal grounds for judging artistic merit in a court of law. The judges also used common colloquialisms to describe images instead of using the more proper language of the “visually literate”. The issue of the relationship between words and pictures was also brought up and how they together create the context for judging a work. However, the lead judge’s verdict was to ignore such connections, regardless of historical or political relevance. As a result, many of the poetry broadsheets, ‭which lent voice to children—expressing both their positive and negative experiences—are now to have their words posthumously obliterated from history. Surely the fact that this imagery might be considered distasteful by the tender-minded or sexually neurotic does not justify the indignity of these children being silenced. The decision to deem some pieces indecent and some not reached a point of absurdity. In some cases, one would have been hard-pressed to notice the difference between two examples when placed side by side. Nevertheless, the fact that the court should save any of the images slated for destruction is at least a partial triumph. Of the pieces deemed not indecent—none of which were created after 1987—were three from the Pierre Louÿs collection (27 are to be destroyed) and the bulk of the drawings and paintings produced by Ovenden himself.

Alabama is a Third-World Country: After a number of postponements, Chris Madaio’s trial to determine if he violated his parole conditions took place in Morgan County, Alabama.  Unable to afford his own attorney, a public defender was assigned to him.  The problem with public defenders is that they are usually overworked or have an understanding with the judge to just process people through the system, regardless of the merits of the case.  Madaio discovered his lawyer was incompetent and decided to accept a plea bargain, getting a sentence of 14 months.  The disturbing thing about the case was how obvious questions were not even asked like why the prosecution assumed he had access to the illegal materials in the storage unit, why others who clearly had access are not being charged and when those materials were placed there.  The third question suggests the possibility that the defendant has been subjected to double jeopardy in this case.  Madaio believes the court is going out of its way to make an example of him because he was a published photographer and wants to remind Americans that, “Freedom isn’t a right, it must be earned.”

Contact Form: For those of you wishing to reach the editorial staff by email, there is a new contact form on the ‘Contact Us’ page.  You can reach us using that form or just leave a private message in the comments section of the appropriate post.  If any readers find out-of-date email addresses printed on the site, please inform us so they can be updated.

RSS Feeds and Site Design: As we continue to experience growing pains, it has been necessary to add features that enhance our security and professionalism.  Until the site is fully updated, there might be some rough edges here and there.  For example, information on RSS Feeds had to be returned to one of the tabs at the top of the page.  For the time being, this information can be found under the ‘About This Site’ page.

Context is Everything: Facebook is at it again.  Images of nudity are being shared on social media, but because it is taken out of context, Facebook finds itself removing the images then replacing them when it learns the actual intent or backstory.  Learn more in this BBC Trending article.

‭I Must Plead Ignorance: Although I pride myself on being well-read and knowledgeable, life is an ongoing learning process. One of the complaints about the final Ovenden hearing was the judges’ failure to use proper terminology in their descriptions. I find it annoying when the term vagina is used to refer to a woman’s external genitalia when anyone versed in anatomy knows it to be internal. I usually resort to more clinical or scientific terms in my descriptions, but I was surprised to learn of the word pudendum (more commonly used in the plural, pudenda), which can be used to refer to the superficial genital organs of a girl or woman.

12 thoughts on “Maiden Voyages: June 2016

  1. I’m Japanese. I’m sad to see this page go.
    These picture cannot be got these days and are very great pictures. Art should be always legal even if subject is nude, as long as child doesn’t feel psychological abuse (of course we can’t know it abuse or not abuse, besides these are taken decades ago, there is no reason to prohibit pictures now).

  2. It happens that in reaction to some events, parliaments vote in haste laws that are inapplicable in practice. France has been notorious in this respect. Some laws are so contorted that the decree implementing their application is never published. Some are so ridiculous that no one bothers about respecting them (that teachers should highlight the positive aspects of colonization; that scientific events held in France should be advertized in French, that scientists working in France should include a French abstract in each publication written in another language, …).
    If the German parliament voted that photographs of nude buttocks or genitalia of minors are child pornography, then they will have to ban nudist sites and magazines (including of their own powerful FKK federations), and prosecute parents or grandparents who photograph their kids naked in the bathtub or in the garden.
    Then some paintings by Caravaggio will be deemed child pornography, in particular Amor Vincit Omnia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amor_Vincet_Omnia.jpg). Indeed, in Australia, following a call by “a disturbed member of the public”, police removed from an exhibition a reproduction of that painting, see https://blogs.crikey.com.au/culture-mulcher/2013/06/12/shock-moral-panic-at-art-museum/
    It is high time to resist bigotry and to defend the right of artists to show nude minors. I have sent my complaint to the above FSM email address.

  3. […] Issues of jurisdiction aside, an article quoting a real law expert in Germany seems to confirm that the ‘Stolen Dreams’ post is actually legal in that country and would not have precipitated legal proceedings.
    […]

    The article is too old…there where a few changes, which will make now this kind of pictures illegal in Germany and the trigger was the in the Edathy case, which is mentioned in the article….the German law was changed or better tightened at 27.01.2015

    If you want further informations, you can contact me over my mail address.

    bombjack

    • Oh bother! Thank you for this update. That certainly illustrates my point of keeping up-to-date on legal matters and being accountable to only one jurisdiction. A colleague was being helpful in finding that article. However the German courts might handle this case in the current political climate, I still can’t help feeling that the FSM Hotline has been overzealous in this particular case. Given the context of our site, I think it is clear that it is a sincere academic and journalistic enterprise and should be judged on those grounds. I also think our critics have an obligation to make their case that the photo sessions in question entailed abuse or that minors viewing these particular images are at risk of psychological damage. There have been a few times that we did not publish something out of respect for an artist or model, but in this case, FSM seems to be less informed than we are–not necessarily regarding the legality of the images but in how imperative it was that these images be removed from public view. I would be very interested in your take on German law (and the laws of other EU countries) regarding how the context of images is considered in court cases. As it now stands, context is largely irrelevant in US and UK cases which I feel represents a kind of suppression of sincere political discussion. I would be interested cooresponding with you privately once I have caught up on some other things. Thank you for your clarification. -Ron

  4. P.S. Didn’t somebody say, “Where books are burned, in the end will come people”?
    The same could be said to apply to written artistic works that are NOT exactly books.

  5. I remember learning about that word a long time ago. It has an interesting etymology. It comes from a Latin word meaning “to be modest”, as if those are the organs that one must be modest about. It is cognate with “impudent”, an attitude that is NOT modest.

    NOW, down to the important business.
    A GERMAN law?
    But you are NOT in Germany.
    What is to stop any self-appointed Internet censor from digging up SOME law of SOME country to use as a weapon against a website that he is fighting with?

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