Canadians Charge Website Operator With Obscenity Over Publication of Murder Video

Unknownjun_lin.jpg.size.medium2.promoWe have interesting case this week out of Canada that raises the limits of free speech and the use of decency or morality laws. The Canadians have criminally charged the owner of a website for the posting of a horrific video showing the murder of an individual by Luka Magnotta (left) and then sexual relations with the corpse of Jun Lin (right). The concern is that the site owner is being charged with “corrupting morals” a largely undefined crime and has traditionally been used to impose and enforce the moral values of the majority on people who do not share them. It is the natural extension of laws prohibiting the publication or possession of obscene materials, a long controversy in this country as well.

Malek’s site is disgusting and his posting of the video is disgraceful. However, he is not being charged with complicity or conspiracy in the crime. The 38-year-old owns and runs the bestgore.com website. In a truly unnerving twist, he bills himself as a wedding photographer. However, his website appears to specialize in images of death and dismemberment.

Since police believe that Marek knew it was a real murder, it was deemed obscene. If you are going to prosecute obscenity, this would certainly seem to fill the bill. The question is whether governments should prosecute obscenity or simply restrict it in terms of forums and times.

This case began with the killing of Jun Lin and his dismemberment in May 2012. Soon a video appeared entitled “1 lunatic 1 icepick.” Parts of the body were found around Vancouver including his head found in a park. Ironically, it was the video that allowed the police to find the culprit.

Marek clearly caters to a sick crowd who love to see grotesque images from accidents, war zones, and crime scenes. Marek’s computers were seized and police say that he was “evasive” with no known addresses. They are also considering hate crime charges because of alleged racist aspects of the videos and pictures.

I think that we can all agree that Marek and his site regulars are the lowest forms of human existence in relishing scenes of death and misery and torture. The question is whether it should be a crime. If these photographs were legally obtained and these people were not co-conspirators or involved in the crime, should this be a crime? Clearly the operators can be sued civilly for any privacy or other civil violation. Moreover, if this involves child pornography, it can be a crime. However, if these pictures are evidence of crimes or scenes for war, there remains a free speech issue. It is often hard to discuss such issues in a grotesque case of this kind. Few people have anything but disgust for Marek and his followers. However, Western countries have spent decades trying to draw a line of where obscenity begins and simple bad taste ends.

Finally, there is the question of newsworthy videos. Can these videos are legitimately shown on a site that covers legal or political controversies? If so, you have to draw a line between people who say they want to watch it for fun and those who want to watch it for news. Taken the execution video of journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. That was the same type of gruesome video but many felt it was news and left it up to the viewer to decide whether to watch.

Do you believe that immorality or obscenity should still be prosecuted as criminal acts? If so, would you make any exceptions?

 Source: The Star

33 thoughts on “Canadians Charge Website Operator With Obscenity Over Publication of Murder Video

  1. Gene H.:

    “It may offend you, but it causes no real harm. Obscenity should not be prosecuted ever.”

    I guess, then, we can put you down as not a fan of Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. 😉

    • People who are the most deveious heartless people on earth have loved ones watch loved ones be killed before their eyes. That is done to cause psychological damage and exstreame mental grief. No damage, Come again?

  2. Catering to morbid interests is nothing new. I suppose the Internet has made these things more accessible, but I remember walking into a bookstore in Washington, DC close to 30 years ago (Olsson’s Books and Records on 19th Street, NW, for you longtime DC aficionados) and finding a coffee-table-type book of photographs of decapitation scenes, some accidental, some deliberate. It was in the “True Crime” section, along with a number of other fairly graphic books. Now, Olsson’s (which sadly went out of business a couple years ago) was not what one would describe as “mainstream”. I don’t understand the market for such books, but I didn’t find it shocking that it existed.

  3. That is true, Michael. As noted, there is more than one way to accomplish a goal without resorting to the subjective offense of obscenity as your basis. That leaves the question though of if this kind of speech is to be prohibited on a more rational objective basis, should it be criminal or simply a statutory wrong (tort)? I think that has to be carefully considered based upon the nature of what is being prohibited and the legitimate social goals sought.

  4. Gene states “The act itself is malum in se. The distribution of pictures is malum prohibitum because it caters to the pathology of those who are likely to harm children. Protecting children from adult sexual predation is a legitimate rational governmental interest, thus rendering the point that most find it obscene and offensive secondary at best and actually moot in practice.”

    The exact same argument can be made about this particular video: Murder and abuse of a corpse are illegal. The distribution of pictures can be made illegal because it caters to the pathology of those likely to murder or abuse a corpse. Protecting people from murder and the abuse of their loved ones corpses is a legitimate rational government interest.

  5. What that person did killing a person on video for people to see is outrageously atrocious. I can tell you that God is not smiling right now. His cup is almost full and will break forth to avenge the innocent blood that is calling out to him. That act is indeed immoral. He will be punished. That video should be removed.

  6. What that person did killing a person on video for people to see is outrageously atrocious. I can tell you that God is not smiling right now. His cup is almost full and will break forth to avenge the innocent blood that is calling out to him. That act is indeed immoral. He will be punished. That video should be removed

  7. What that person did killing a person on video for people to see is outrageously atrocious. I can tell you that God is not smiling right now. His cup is almost full and will break forth to avenge the innocent blood that is calling out to him. That act is indeed immortal. He will be punished. That video should be removed.

  8. What that person killing a person on video for people to see is outrageously atrocious. I can tell you that God is not smiling right now. His cup is almost full and will break forth to avenge the innocent blood that is calling out to him. That act is indeed immortal. He will be punished. That video should be removed.

  9. Gene, Just doing a quick search I have learned bestiality video is not considered obscene. I doubt PETA would agree. However, the rape video obscenity isn’t clear. If it’s “acting” then it is not obscene. However, I’ve not been able to determine if an actual rape video is obscene and illegal. I have some trepidations researching in depth, NSA and all! And, I’m deadly serious on that. But, IMO, if it is proven the rape is real, via successful prosecution of the rapist[s], then it should be considered obscene.

  10. nick,

    Maybe. My primary objection to obscenity (as opposed to immorality) as a basis for prosecution is that it is a subjective reaction whereas other crimes although they can be immoral can also be defined as wrong for purely objective ethical and societal policy reasons. I think such an argument can be made for banning real rape (as opposed to consensual role playing faux-rape – something I just don’t get but I know some people like it) videos as rape is universally considered wrong by everyone but rapists, but bestiality videos? That again strays into the territory of gray as some consider it immoral and some don’t (even if they find it disgusting). Not quite as clear cut. That being said, I think it’s fair to say there is more than one way to skin a cat (all apologies to cats).

  11. Gene, I get it. Then would rape and bestiality videos be obscene on the same premise that it may spur more rape and bestiality?

  12. nick,

    Invalid consent is part of the rationale for it being illegal, but really that’s a legal construct employed to the end of prohibiting an action that is in itself simply wrong. In the instance of child sexual predation, we could just as easily use physical and psychological harm to the victims and prevention/deterrence of said harm as a matter of public policy as a basis for its illegality and that would be just as sufficient a rationale using specific harm as the basis instead of consent. Consent just happens to fit into the framework already provided by other sex crimes (like rape and bestiality) and how they are defined. Uniformity has utility.

  13. If a website has appropriate warnings about how the content there deviates from societal norms, I would hesitate to treat it as a crime. Better to err on the side of liberty and free speech than censorship. Perhaps a way to block minors might be appropriate, but making it a crime to report through video an actual murder and rape? No. That is going too far.

  14. ” I don’t see how you can make a principled exception for child pornography.”

    The act itself is malum in se. The distribution of pictures is malum prohibitum because it caters to the pathology of those who are likely to harm children. Protecting children from adult sexual predation is a legitimate rational governmental interest, thus rendering the point that most find it obscene and offensive secondary at best and actually moot in practice.

  15. Hopefully we can all agree that this certainly pushes the envelope to the extreme. We know that child pornography is a felony and no one except NAMBLA disagrees w/ that. At the core of child porn being illegal is that a child cannot legally give consent for sex. Having sex w/ a corpse is illegal in most cultures. Is that based upon the same premise of non consensual as in child porn? I don’t know. But, if it is, then this video would be obscene.

  16. Obscenity is a long recognized First Amendment exception. It has passed the test of time for those worried about some sort of slippery slope. I’d have no problems with the government prosecuting this guy for obscenity as it seems to fit within existing First Amendment law and as JT recognizes “If you are going to prosecute obscenity, this would certainly seem to fill the bill.” If you are against all obscenity prosecutions, then I don’t see how you can make a principled exception for child pornography.

  17. Does Canada have something Akin to our First Amendment? Being under the British Yoke and all I would guess that they probably do not.

  18. Yeah, Dredd. If it’s any consolation, the actions here are vile by any reasonable standard, even to many of us who don’t follow the Jedi Religion.

  19. the site owner is being charged with “corrupting morals”

    He is charged with negative energy from the dark side of the force.

  20. “Do you believe that immorality or obscenity should still be prosecuted as criminal acts?”

    Really this is two different questions. What one might consider obscene may not be immoral, just offensive, such as consensual sodomy or consensual oral sex. Some crimes though are inherently immoral even if they have rational and ethical reasons for their prohibition unrelated to any religious mores. Murder for example. However, the nexus between malum in se crimes and immorality is not clearly defined as some malum prohibitum crimes – like smoking marijuana – are considered immoral by some, but not so by others (in an ever increasing majority in the case of marijuana). Immorality, in and of itself, should not be prosecuted as a crime unless there is a valid societal interest and the restrictions of rights are limited – such as prosecuting murder or theft.

    Obscenity, being in the eye of the beholder or “I know it when I see it” as Justice Potter Stewart famously said, is subjective; a subjective reaction someone has upon viewing or hearing of something. It need not be rational or related to a legitimate state interest. It may offend you, but it causes no real harm. Obscenity should not be prosecuted ever.

    “If so, would you make any exceptions?”

    No.

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