Last year the federal court in Memphis, Tennessee called Robert and Carleen Thomas down from Milipitas, California to stand trial for offending their community standards.
The Thomases were running a pornographic BBS that served up some truly explicit, graphic pictures. Robert, himself, coined his online store "the nastiest place on earth!" Even though it was rude, crude, over-the-top porn, it was once raided by California authorities and found to be legal.
But when it came to the attention of postal inspector David Dirmeyer of Memphis, Tennessee, he saw a perfect chance for an undercover bust. With some kiddie porn, a fake name and a purpose, Dirmeyer would land the Thomases in jail.
They were convicted in following with a 1973 Supreme Court ruling on obscenity which allows local communities to decide for themselves what is obscene. The only problem is that cyberspace doesn't understand geographies. So now, if any local Bible Belt community can convict any Internet publisher for obscenity, these communities become the arbiters of legality in cyberspace.
The trial was a mess for the Thomases. The jury convicted them and the judge sent them to jail. So they retained new counsel and filed for appeal.
The Sixth Circuit heard the appeal and was having none of it. They handed down their decision in January.