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Primer: Children, The Internet and Pornography

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The PROTECT Act, among many other provisions, would outlaw digitally "morphed" images made to appear as if children are having sex or being used in pornographic images. Morphed child porn would be illegal if prosecutors can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the maker intended others to believe that the images were actual child pornography. That language, authored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), also requires pornographers to show that children were not involved in their products. Also included in this bill is a prohibition, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), against misleading domain names that lead children to pornography Web sites.
Sponsors: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis).
Status: Passed Congress, April 2003. President Bush is expected to sign.


CDA: Communications Decency Act

Originally signed into law as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the law would have required, among other things, that material considered "indecent" -- including pornography -- be outlawed in public forums accessible by children, most notably the Internet. The Supreme Court in 1997 overturned parts of the law, including the prohibition on public displays of pornography and other material considered "indecent."

Highlights: The law called for up to two years in jail, plus up to a $250,000 fine for engaging in speech that is "indecent" or "patently offensive" in a place where minors can view or hear it.
Original Sponsor: Former Sen. James Exon (D-Neb.)
Signed into law: President Clinton, 1996, as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Status: Indecency prohibitions overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997.


CPPA: Child Pornography Prevention Act

The Supreme Court struck down this law, which, unlike the CDA and COPA, specifically applied to "morphed" child pornography. The law would have forbidden the practice of taking images of adults engaged in sexual acts or posing nude, and digitally altering the images to give them the appearance that the subjects were children. The court said that the law would have also hurt artistic expression.
Original Sponsor: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
Signed into law: President Clinton, 1996.
Status: Overturned by Supreme Court in 2002.


COPPA: Child Obscenity and Pornography Prevention Act (2002)

Introduced shortly after the CPPA was shot down by the Supreme Court, this bill would have outlawed adult images that are digitally "morphed" to appear as if children are having sex or being used in pornographic images. It would have forbidden morphed images that purport to show prepubescent children. It also would have allowed pornographers to prove in court, if charged with showing images of child pornography, that they morphed the images in question -- essentially shifting the burden of proof to the defendant.
Highlights: Would have ordered U.S. Sentencing Commission to devise penalties, also would have required FBI to keep database of known child porn images.
Original Sponsor: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
Status: Passed the House last year, but did not receive Senate consideration before the end of the 107th Congress in 2002.


COPPA: Child Obscenity and Pornography Prevention Act (2003)

This bill also tackles digitally morphed pornography, but tries to skirt the constitutional problems in a different fasion than the 2002 COPPA. This bill does not quibble over whether computer-generated or transmitted pornography is real or fake child porn. It simply outlaws any solicitation to buy or sell child pornography, so even if pornographer knows it's a morphed image, representing it as child pornography would make it just as illegal.
Highlights: Also outlaws showing pornography to children.
Original Sponsor: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
Status: Included as an amendment in the PROTECT Act (see above).


COPPA: The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act

This law is not the same COPPA that outlaws digitally morphed images designed to look like children having sex. Rather, it is a much less controversial bill that has to do with protecting children's privacy from online marketers. The law has not been challenged.
Highlights: Penalties are imposed for collecting personal data on children under 13 years old without receiving written parental consent.
Original Sponsor: Former Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.)
Status: Signed into law by President Clinton, 1998.


CMEPA: Child Modeling Exploitation Prevention Act

CMEPA would have barred Web sites from posting photographs of clothed, but suggestively posed children.
Highlights: Unspecified fines and up to 10 years in prison for violators, specifically, people who employ suggestively clothed models who are under 17 years old.
Original Sponsors: Reps. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), Nick Lampson (D-Texas)
Status: Died in the House at the end of the 107th Congress.

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