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An 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel indicated Thursday that the keyhole should be closed on Internet porn sites broadcasting from private residences, saying the sites constitute a business and could violate municipal zoning ordinances. “We live in the world of reality TV. People will watch anything,” said Judge William H. Pyror, one of three judges hearing the city’s appeal. His comments came during oral arguments in the city of Miami’s appeal to enforce municipal codes at a two-story colonial home north of downtown Miami used by cocodorm.com, a gay sex site that provides in-home camera feeds to subscribers. The house at 503 NE 27th St. is essentially a production studio because independent contractors provide a service for a salary, room and board, the appellate judge said. But U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke ruled last year in favor of cocodorm’s parent company, Flava Works, citing a 2001 ruling by the 11th Circuit that concluded such homes did not constitute adult entertainment business because the product was essentially in cyberspace. The city argued the issue is not whether cocodorm.com is an adult entertainment facility but that businesses of any kind are prohibited in residential zones. James Benjamin, a Fort Lauderdale attorney with Benjamin & Aaronson representing cocodorm and Flava Works, vociferously argued the appellate court already decided the issue nearly a decade ago. Cocodorm advertised for endowed models to live in the home and have their lives caught on Web cameras for paying customers. Flava Works receives the images from the cameras and puts them on its servers for paying customers. Benjamin repeatedly referred to the 2001 decision when a panel ruled a home transmitting online images of copulating college co-eds did not violate Tampa, Fla.’s zoning ordinance banning adult businesses in residential areas.

Web Extra: Appellate briefs

Since then, “voyeur” porn sites have become some of the most profitable on the Internet, combining reality television and once-secret sex by transmitting from the bedrooms of private homes. The decision for the cyber sex world was crucial, and Cooke didn’t hesitate to rely on it when siding with cocodorm in January 2009. Miami cited Flava Works for allegedly running an illegal business at a residence, an illegal boardinghouse and an adult entertainment venue in a residential neighborhood. Assistant City Attorney John Greco argued the issues are different now. While the Tampa case involved whether an adult pornography business was operating in a neighborhood, the current case focuses on whether a business is illegally operating in a residential zone. Allowing cocodorm.com to operate in the neighborhood eviscerates the city’s zoning ordinances, Greco said. “Apparently, a business in a residential zone is permissible,” he said sarcastically. Flava Works might as well have set up a textile factory in the neighborhood, Greco argued in appellate briefs. The company also ran into some controversy in Chicago, where the Public Health Department alleged a high level of sexually transmitted diseases among the residents of a home the company operated there. Benjamin told the panel, which included 11th Circuit Judge Peter Fay and Senior U.S. District Judge Jordan J. Quist, visiting from Michigan, that neighbors were undisturbed by the residents. The only difference is cameras were set up in every nook and cranny to record their daily lives, which happened to include lots of sex. The red house’s windows are whited out. There was only one vehicle parked there Thursday. Benjamin said Flava Works might have moved the operation due to publicity. The court indicated it most likely would send the case back to Cooke with instructions that the Tampa case is not controlling. When Benjamin got animated in his argument, Pyror asked him if he wanted the appellate court to decide whether cocodorm.com is a business rather than send it back to Cooke. “You are probably not going to like the ruling,” Pryor said.

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