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Making Sure Minors Arenít Caught in the Wrong Web: Three Basic Steps to Preventing Underage Usage of Adult Sites

Each and every day, the internet allows people to access infinite websites of varied content.† Some of those sites, however, are not meant for eyes of all ages, and when viewed by the wrong user, severe legal issues can ensue.† For the operators of adult websites, the major challenge is assuring that the site is limited to adult access only and prohibits viewings by minors.† Though it may at first seem difficult to accomplish these goals and comply with the law while at the same time still enabling as many legitimate users as possible, operators can use a few simple tools in order to reduce underage viewers as well as defend their websites if legally challenged.

The first step is to turn the homepage into a warning/ entry page. In many jurisdictions, this is already required by law and, in general, a good idea to implement. The warning page should be a written statement noting that adult content is ahead. Nothing but the written statement should be on this page, meaning nothing that can be construed as remotely sexual should be present. It is a sign of caution to the viewer: it allows users of appropriate age who are not searching for adult content to avoid any unwanted material ahead, and most importantly, it emphasizes to the minor who is not of appropriate age that they are not allowed to enter.

The second step is to use some type of recognized website labeling, such as ASACPís RTA code (ďRestricted to AdultsĒ). Operators must be advised that this label is not only the small graphic symbol that can be located on the website but is also embedded into the HTML code and placed within the (head) section of the webpage. It allows website-filtering software to easily identify the adult nature of the site and block it accordingly. The RTA code also enables parents to determine what websites their children are allowed to view since it is recognized by such parental control software programs as ParentalControl Bar. If the industry does not label itself, the government will enforce mandatory solutions, such as the .XXX TLD.

Lastly, the third step is for the operator to establish terms and conditions for the website. The legal steps taken that allow users to access a siteís intellectual property are often similar to those taken to prevent usage of the site by minors. This part is best handled by a qualified attorney, especially one with experience specifically in this field. Acquiring an attorney is the best way to establish terms and conditions that meet the operatorís specific needs as well as guarantee their maximum legal protection.

Following these three important yet basic steps to reduce the usage of adult sites by minors will remove some of the usual legal burden that falls upon the site operators and perhaps may even transfer some fault to the minors who access them.

Daniel A. Pepper is the founder of Pepper Law Group, LLC, a law firm based in Somerville, New Jersey which provides strategic advice and sophisticated legal services to businesses, entrepreneurs, and entertainers in the areas of technology law, intellectual property, Internet law, entertainment law, business formation and general business counsel, and privacy and security law.

Dan is a member of the State Bars of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the District Courts for the District of New Jersey and Western Pennsylvania, the American Bar Association, the American Corporate Counsel Association, the Internet & Computer Law Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association, the Somerset County Business Partnership, the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and the Free Speech Coalition. Dan has received a BV peer-review rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is an indication of an exemplary reputation and well-established practice. He is also a member of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Licensing Executives Society. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Rutgers University, and his Juris Doctor degree from the Duquesne University School of Law. More information on the firm can be found at or by telephone at 908.698.0330

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