Monday, August 17, 2015

Reviewing the history of CPPA and "virtual child pornography"

When I saw the movie “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” Saturday night (review Movies blog Sunday morning), I wondered if the images in the film, purporting to be of a 15-year-old girl, could be illegal (child pornography).  I presume that since the actress who played her was actually 21, there would be no legal problem (as long as the production company collected evidence of her age, which all reputable US, Canadian, Australian and European movie studios do to comply with laws).

Previously I’ve covered COPPA and CIPA (as well as COPA) in this blog, but some time back, in 1996, there was also a law called CPPA, the Child Pornography Prevention Act, which was largely overturned by the Supreme Court in 2002 (Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition).  Some technicalities regarding expert testimony remained, and then Congress muddied the waters again with the PROTECT Act (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children), which would make the goading of customers a crime even if no real minors were involved.

All of this is explained pretty thoroughly in a somewhat rambling post by the First Amendment Center, “Virtual Child Pornography”, by David L. Hudson, posted first in 2002 and updated in 2009.  The article appears to show that, without the Supreme Court’s overturning of CPPA, movies like “American Beauty” and “Traffic”, let alone “Teenage Girl”, would be illegal.

The controversy over drawings or animations that simulate child pornography would be similar as Congress has tried to outlaw it.  If an actual minor had been the subject of such a drawing or painting, that would still seem to make the work or possessing it illegal.

The DOJ actually gives less detail in its own explanation.


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