Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Catching Up to Child Porn in Scotus

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appeared open Tuesday (10/30) to arguments that a law intended to criminalize the advertising of purported child pornography is constitutional and would not cover promotions of Lolita and American Beauty, as challengers say.

The 2003 law arises from Congress' effort to staunch the demand for child pornography and save the children exploited in the creation of the illegal materials. It makes it a crime — punishable by at least five years in prison — to advertise, promote or solicit materials purported to depict children engaging in sex acts.

A federal appeals court last year struck down the ban as overly broad in violation of the First Amendment free-speech guarantee. The court said the law could cover fake or non-existent porn offerings.

A lawyer for Michael Williams, a Florida man convicted under the law, says it could threaten the marketing of movies depicting adolescent sex. The National Coalition Against Censorship and other free-speech groups are backing him.

The Justice Department counters that the law targets solicitations that fuel the child porn market and would not cover ads about mainstream movies.

As the justices pummeled both sides with questions, they seemed torn on the reach of the law. Overall, the comments, particularly from swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, suggested they may reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and uphold the law.

By Joan Biskupic

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