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PolitiFact California: Will Proposition 60 Expose Adult Film Workers To Lawsuits?

PolitiFact California looks at claims made by elected officials, candidates and groups and rates them as: True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and Pants On Fire.

Opponents of California’s Proposition 60 — which requires adult film performers to wear condoms — say it’s not the protective measure it’s touted to be.

"This law pretends to protect workers in the adult film industry, but in fact it's putting them at risk for lawsuits and harassment," says a recent advertisement on YouTube by the No on 60 campaign.


That ad was paid for by Californians Against Worker Harassment which was founded by the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult entertainment industry, to oppose Proposition 60.

We wondered: Does Proposition 60 — a measure intended to curb sexually transmitted diseases among porn workers — really expose those same people to legal action?

We decided to fact-check that provocative claim.

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

Our research


Here’s some background on Proposition 60 before we jump into the claim about lawsuits.

California law has required condom use in adult films since 1992. Supporters of Proposition 60 say the initiative would strengthen the existing law, which they say is rarely enforced.

The measure is sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has long pushed for greater safety standards in adult films.

In 2012, voters in Los Angeles County approved a similar condom requirement for adult films made in that county. It is considered a model for Proposition 60, which applies its condom mandate to scenes with anal and vaginal intercourse.

Proposition 60 would also require adult film companies to obtain a health license and pay for the costs of vaccinations and health tests for sexually transmitted diseases for their performers.

We asked the No on 60 campaign for evidence backing up its claim that performers would be open to lawsuits under the measure. A spokesman pointed to the initiative’s section 6720.6, on enforcement, whistleblowers and private rights of action.

It allows those who witness violations of the proposed law — including performers, prosecutors or anyone who is a California resident — to file a complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. If the agency declines to pursue the case within 21 days, the witness could then file a civil lawsuit against anyone with a financial interest in the film, which could include some performers.

There’s no mention in the No on 60 advertisement, however, that only performers with a financial interest would be liable. Nor does the ad mention the complaint process that must precede a lawsuit.

More porn workers with financial stake

Still, opponents of the measure said making performers liable is significant because many have a financial stake in the content.

"You see, in today’s adult film industry, the majority of performers are also producers," Eric Paul Leue, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, wrote in an opinion piece about Proposition 60 in the Advocate, a LGBT news publication, this month. "In addition to shooting for studios, most porn stars regularly create their own content — either for their own websites, on webcams, or in partnership with studios."

Proposition 60 would apply to any commercial pornography produced in California, in traditional films and on the web.

Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals, a sociologist who studies the adult film industry, said the percentage of workers who have a financial stake in adult content they contribute to "is certainly very high," though she said there’s no accepted estimate. Advances in technology and distribution, she said, have allowed more workers to share in the financial success of their content.

"Everyone from webcam models to agents may have a financial stake in a single piece of content," Tibbals added.

Supporters of Proposition 60, however, maintain the claim about workers being exposed to lawsuits is deceptive.

"The only people who can get sued (under Proposition 60) are producers," said Rick Taylor, who manages the Yes on 60 campaign. "Some actors and actresses are producers. If they’re breaking the law, they’re going to potentially get sued."

Taylor said the measure’s goal is to bolster worker protections and public health, and that it doesn’t matter what percentage of performers have a financial stake in the films.

Our ruling

Opponents of California’s Proposition 60, which would require condom use in adult films, recently claimed it would put "workers in the adult film industry at risk for lawsuits and harassment."

The statement is partially accurate: Some adult film workers, and perhaps a growing share, could face lawsuits if they have a financial interest in the content they work on. But Proposition 60 does not specify what constitutes a financial interest. Ultimately, it may be up to the courts to decide.

Importantly, the claim by the opponents makes no mention that only workers with a monetary stake in the films would be liable and only after a complaint process plays out. Those who are independent contractors would face no legal action.

The statement leaves out this key context and gives the impression that any or all workers could face lawsuits.

We rate the claim Half True.

HALF TRUE – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

Click here formoreon the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

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