How Laws Against Child Pornography Protect Criminals

IMPORTANT: This article is about the short-term possession of images with naked children on them, not about the production, rape or abuse of children. It’s about the collateral damage created by founding legislation on (perceived) morality rather than evidence or common sense.

In his blog post “Three Reasons Possession Of Child Porn Must Be Re-Legalized In The Coming Decade” and the follow-up “Child porn laws aren’t as bad as you think. They’re much, much worse”, Rick Falkvinge offers his point of view why the current legislation regarding possession of child porn in many countries are hurting the victims and protecting the criminals. While I don’t share all his views, I agree with him that the current law hurts more than it helps.

Imagine you talk a walk in the park. You come around a corner and you see someone raping a child. What do you do? You could use your smart phone, make a picture (evidence) and call the police.

Bad idea. If you do this, you’ll go to jail. Why? Because you just produced and distributed child porn.

Let’s take this one step further. Imagine you wear Google Glasses. The moment you notice what’s in front of you, you’re already a criminal. The only way to avoid going to jail in this situation would be to delete all and any evidence that you have ever been there. Probably not what you want. Think about it: To avoid going to jail, you must not collect any evidence that could be used to convict the molester.

Why? Because in a mindless haste to close any loopholes in the laws, they were formulated in such a way that possession of pictures on which children are naked OR abused (whatever that actually means), no matter the circumstances, is punishable with at least a few years of prison. Translation: Even if the judge thinks that you’re 100% innocent, he still has to send you to prison because the law doesn’t give him any leeway.

You might be wondering why I don’t link to the second article by Rick. Simple: The article contains two images which are, under current law, child pornography. If you read the second article, you might commit a crime in some countries. I suggest to consult a lawyer before going there. Even by opening the article in your browser without ever reading it, you’re guilty of producing child porn because your browser downloaded a copy of the images onto your hard disk – that’s what the law says. Again, in some countries, the laws against child abuse do not give the judges any leeway in the verdict, no matter how silly, insane or stupid it would be to apply them in a certain situation.

Interesting situation, isn’t it? To know whether it’s legally safe to go a place on the web, you must not know anything that might there. Ignorance is no excuse in law. Moreover, even court lets you go, your reputation will be shot.

Rumor has it the second image is a very famous picture from the Vietnam war; it shows children fleeing after a Napalm bombing. You can probably buy a copy in your local poster shop. And yes, you have probably seen this image before. I saw it in school, I think. Today, it might get our teacher into jail for showing child pornography to minors. Wikipedia has an article under “Vietnam war” which also contains the image; don’t read that article or you might end up in jail – that’s why I didn’t add a link. On the COPINE Scale, this image would probably be a 10 meaning or a 5 on the SAP scale – if that was found on your computer, the punishment would be in the top range of what the law allows.

If you live in a country where there are strict laws against such images (see links below), you should make sure that your pre-adult children don’t make pictures of themselves in the nude. That’s production of child pornography. If they copy the images on their own mobile phone, computer, laptop, that’s distribution. If anyone ever finds out, they will go to jail for several years. Again, the laws have been formulated in such a way that common sense can’t interfere.

If you live in such a country (like the USA, Sweden or Germany), now would be a good time to make up your mind if that is actually what you wanted.

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