Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Traci Lords

'Traci's Law'

In 1977, Congress created the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act of 1977, which prohibits the interstate transportation, shipping, receipt, distribution or reproduction of visual depictions of anyone younger than 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Soon after the Lords scandal, Meese and a few other politicians advocated raising the legal age of consent to 21 — a move that Lords said makes sense.

"I don't think 18 is old enough," she told Playboy. "How come you can't buy a drink until you're 21? Because you're not mature enough to make that decision. But you can go out and have sex and have it recorded. That seems ridiculous to me. I don't think 18 is old enough to make a decision that's going to affect the rest of your life."

The attempt to raise the age of consent failed, but the U.S. criminal code was amended to impose stricter regulation of producers of explicit sexual conduct. President Reagan signed the legislation on Oct. 18, 1986 — Traci's Law, one might call it.

The law, whose implementation was delayed until 1995 by legal challenges, holds porn producers accountable for hiring an underage performer, even if the producers did not know the actor was a minor. The law attempted to close the loophole that got Jim South off the criminal hook, since Traci Lords had showed a fake California driver's license.

Today, South's Web site entices aspiring nude models with a promise of up to $2,500 a day for their work.

But South also warns prospective talent they must produce two forms of government-issued identification, such as a passport and a driver's license. (In 2004, federal law was amended to specify that draft cards and college IDs were not valid proof of age.)

The law states that producers "shall create and maintain individually identifiable records pertaining to every performer." It also requires a paper trail of this documentation, including details of copyright ownership and releases, model releases and model age identification.

Penalties for violators were beefed up last year — up to five years in prison for first offenses and up to ten years for repeat offenders.

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