What laws should I know about in the adult entertainment business?

By , J.D. New York University School of Law


My business partner and I want to start an adult entertainment company producing film and print work. Where can we find out what specific laws govern our area of interest?


If you want to go into the business of putting naked body parts on display, think first about where you can safely locate your business. Chances are that you'll have to deal with local zoning restrictions that govern where adult-oriented businesses may be located. Check with the planning department or other similar office in your city, or in your county if you're in an unincorporated rural area. And don't forget that unhappy neighbors can attempt to block you even if the zoning laws don't expressly forbid your activities.

If your business will be strictly a service business and not a retail store open to the public, you might not be subject to any special requirements. But many cities have laws regulating adult bookstores or video stores, including where they may be located and what hours they may be open. In addition, if you will be filming any adult movies, you may need to get a filming permit. Check with your city or county planning commission.

At the state level, there may be special licensing requirements for your specific business activities. For instance, if a regulatory agency in Florida required a license for adult film production, you would need to obtain one and comply with any restrictions that might come with it, such as a requirement that you verify that no minors are involved with your film projects. Often your state commerce department can direct you to any agencies that may have regulatory power over your business.

Finally, you may want to educate yourself on what constitutes obscene speech, which is not protected by the First Amendment and therefore can be banned. Check out your local law library, where the librarian can direct you to explanations of obscenity law as well as relevant court cases.

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