Thursday, January 23, 2014

Supreme Court weighs damages to victims of child pornography when they sue people who possess images (only after conviction?)

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday on the case of Parloline v. Amy Unknown, and U.S., 12-8561, concerning a woman, Amy, who won a civil restitution suit from one defendant, Doyle Randall Paroline, for possessing images of her being abused by an uncle, as part a much larger collection of child pornography. The Associated Press story by Susan Walsh was run in the Washington Post today, link here.

There would be a logical question as to whether Congress, in passing the 1994 liability law, had intended to distribute total award among all defendants associated with a victim.  The problem is that often just one possessor is apprehended and held responsible for the entire cost.  Theoretically, the defendant could have to pay every victim in his collection if all of them sued.

The case should be considered in light of the possibility that child pornography cases in the future could pop up because of wardriving,  or malware.  That possibility was discussed here July 20, 2013 and July 23, 2013 on the Internet Safety blog.  A prosecution might not result in a conviction because of the standard of proof in a criminal case, but a civil case could possibly hole someone whose computer had gotten the illegal images of the victim through malware responsible, according to lower standards of evidence and theories of diligence that could be expected of computer owners.  It does not seem as though this possibility was raised in the oral questions, and it needs to be considered.

See a related story here Dec. 3, 2013. 

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