Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pornography at Lake City library may violate law, issue takes center stage

UPDATE: Links added as more news outlets report on the story. Also a added new KUOW story addressing application of 1973 law mentioned here in our post.

The story about a man openly viewing pornography at the Lake City Library and then refusing to stop when asked by another patron has been a hot topic in Seattle today.

The man refused to stop even though his screen was said to be visible to other patrons, including children, throughout the room.

The woman that protested the man's use of the computer, Julie Howe, asked library staff to intervene but they refused because library policy allows the viewing of pornographic images on the library's computers.

However, the use of the computers, especially in plain view of other patrons, appears to be in violation of Seattle Municipal Code 12A.10.090 Public display of erotic material.

From the code:
Material is placed upon "public display" if it is placed by the defendant on or in a billboard, viewing screen, theater marquee, newsstand, display rack, window, showcase, display case or similar place so that matter bringing it within the definition of subsection 1 of this subsection is easily visible from a public thoroughfare or from the property of others
 A person is guilty of displaying erotic material if he knowingly places such material upon public display, or if he knowingly fails to take prompt action to remove such a display from property in his possession after learning of its existence.

The issue has been previously ruled on by the Washington State Supreme Court. The 2010 ruling said that public libraries can filter Internet content to block things like porn, after the ACLU had sued a rural library district in the state.

As the story unfolded Tuesday, dozens of other people contacted the Seattle P-I, telling similar stories of pornography being viewed at libraries throughout the city. The issue does not seem to be limited to our neighborhood library.

"Now I don't let my kids wander the aisles at our branch--so sad," one mother said to the P-I.

A preschool teacher that works at a school blocks from the Lake City Branch said she feels unsafe taking her students there.

Local television crews have been dropping by the neighborhood library all day.

The story was first reported here on our Douglas Park Cooperative blog and on the Lake City Live blog.

TV news trucks park in front of the library Tuesday night.
KUOW's The Conversation did a segment on the topic today.

It has been the most-read story all day on the Seattle P-I since it was reported this morning.

The Seattle Times posted a story with more info on Tuesday night.

Q13 Fox had a story Tuesday night.

KIRO TV had a story.

Even The Stranger and industry site PublicLibraries.com com have reports on the topic.

KUOW followed up with this story on Wednesday that briefly addresses the issue of the 1973 city ordinance at the bottom of the story:

Although the library's policy is clear, the law may not be. The Seattle Attorney's Office tells KUOW that a 1973 city ordinance bans what's called the public display of erotic material. And the law defines public as being on a billboard, on a newsstand, in a window, or on a viewing screen. But, the Attorney's Office says, the law is rarely, if ever, enforced.

We will update with any new information as the story continues to unfold.

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