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Honey Pot or Legit Site?
February 07, 2010

Okay, before anyone jumps to any conclusions, let me explain by providing a little background. I've been trying to learn the Russian language for the last few years. My vocabulary is decent, but I'm not really good at working with declensions and conjugations. So, to develop my listening skills and force myself to think more quickly in Russian, I watch Russian language YouTube videos and occasionally I rent or purchase a Russian movie. So, a couple weeks ago I purchased a video called "Cheesecake" from Amazon, only it was handled by a vendor called FOREIGN_MOVIEBIZZ_USA. At $12.95 the movie looked like a good deal. When the movie arrived I noticed a sticker stuck to the invoice advertising two websites (www.azovfilms.com and www.outsidervideos.com). The outsidervideos.com site doesn't load on my computers, but the azovfilms.com link does work, but before you try it, a word of warning is in order.

The azovfilms.com site appears to be a legitimate website that sells foreign feature films, documentaries, and books. It may well be a perfectly above board and legal site or it may be a honey pot or perhaps even a site of questionable legality. By using the term honey pot, I'm suggesting that the site could be used by law enforcement to lure people interested in illegal materials and to then entice them into breaking the law so that they can easily apprehend individuals predisposed to commit certain types of crimes. So my question concerns whether or not the azovfilms.com website is a honey pot set up by some law enforcement agency or not. If not, then what side of the law does the site fall on? It would be unfortunate for someone to wind up under legal scrutiny as the result of an innocent purchase of a product through Amazon.com that happens to be regarded as some sort of an indicator of an interest in illegal activities.

What makes me suspicious about the azovfilms.com site is that despite the fact that many of the DVDs that it sells appear to be legitimate Hollywood movies or legitimate foreign flicks, some of the DVDs they offer are what they call Naturist Films that feature pre-pubescent children. A quick inspection of the preview stills and trailers for some of the DVDs makes it clear that these DVDs include full-frontal nudity. Although these nude videos are not actually pornographic, since no sexual activity is shown (at least from what I could tell), in light of recent news stories involving sexting, bathtub photos discovered by Wal-Mart employees, and the case of the National Guard soldier in Afghanistan (see links at bottom of page), it seems that the legality of these films might be considered to be questionable, at least in the eyes of some law enforcement authorities.

The big problem here is that the legal definition of what constitutes pornography is vague. Some would argue that the definition is intentionally left ambiguous in order to allow law enforcement officials wiggle room to trump up charges. Former Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart is famous for his failure to provide a definition of hard-core pornography. He said it was hard to define, but that he knew it when he saw it. Obviously such a definition is a cop out that fails to provide clear guidance to citizens or law enforcement. As such, it sets up a situation where the personal judgement of local law enforcement agents becomes the law. Thus criminality becomes a matter of being out of step with the law enforcement crowd. This leaves the interpretation of questionable materials up to local officials and sets up a situation where inconsistent treatment under the law is quite likely.

Before anyone visits the azovfilms.com site, consider the following scenario. If you view the preview images for one of the naturist films at the site on your computer, cached copies of the images will in most cases be saved in the memory of your computer. Even if deleted and even if erased with special software, it is probable that forensic software such as EnCase will detect the images should your computer be confiscated and inspected by law enforcement personnel. Although the pictures at azovfilms.com don't meet the technical definition of pornography, an over-zealous prosecuter could decide that they do. Charges might be filed, and depending on the judgement of the local district attorney, you might face a jury trial and the possibility of a very long prison sentence. A plea deal might be offered that requires that you register as a sex offender and serve a short prison term. Rather than take your chances with the jury and bankrupt yourself on lawyer fees you might feel coerced into accepting the deal. Obviously this would be an abomination of justice if this happened to you, but it is likely that many have been victimized in precisely this manner.

So, getting back to the status of azovfilms.com: Is it a honey pot, a legitimate site, or questionable? Most people beleive that it is best, when in doubt, to ere on the side of caution and will decide not to check out the site. But should intellectual curiosity be something that is punished if you're one of those people who decides to look at the site for yourself? If the site actually is an FBI front, is it ethical for the FBI to make the images described here available to the public? What if the site is run by a private vigilante group? Is it a sign of our culture's emotional immaturity regarding nudity that there are even any questions about this material? Are nude images of children really harmful to anyone? How do the laws relevant to such images differ between countries? What is their legal status in the USA as compared to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada? What about other countries? Although I'm not personally offended by the materials available at azovfilms.com, should I be concerned by the fact that a sticker advertising the site was attached to the invoice I received through a vendor associated with Amazon.com?

UPDATE (08/28/2011):

The azovfilms.com website has been taken off-line apparently as a result of a legal issue in Ukraine regarding some of the videos that were sold at that website. Although "Cheesecake" is still listed at Amazon.com, it is currently unavailable despite the fact that it is not involved in the legal situation in Ukraine. According to news articles from Ukrainian newspapers some of the videos sold at the azovfilms.com website contained images of nude children and although the nude images are not themselves illegal, apparently not obtaining parental consent before filming such videos is legally questionable in Ukraine, as it would be in most countries. It seems that the legal status of the situation has not yet been settled, but it is highly unlikely that the videos in question will become available for sale again anytime in the future. Although "Cheesecake" is temporarily unavailable at Amazon.com, it is likely that it will become available there, one way or the other, sooner or later, since there is nothing legally questionable about the movie. Also note that the last link listed on this page provides information about a vendor that does carry the "Cheesecake" movie, should you happen to be interested in viewing it.

LINKS:

Should Teens Be Made Into Sex Offenders For Sexting?
Soldier Charged After E-mailed Pictures From Home
Rick Rolled to child porn = you're a pedophile, says FBI (Honey Pot Scheme)
Cheesecake (2008) movie information at Amazon.com
Cheesecake: DVD Rental or Purchase


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