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High court agrees to review child-porn law

By The Associated Press
03.26.07

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed today to decide the constitutionality of a federal child-pornography law.

The issue arose in the case of Michael Williams, whose conviction in Florida for promoting child porn was reversed by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeals court panel found the pandering provision of the PROTECT Act of 2003 was overbroad and impermissibly vague, saying that it criminalizes the speech of someone who touts material as child pornography when in fact it is clean or nonexistent.

In the appeals court's view, the pandering provision could apply to an e-mail entitled "Good pics of kids in bed" sent by a grandparent, with innocent pictures attached of grandchildren in pajamas.

One sender might be a proud grandparent while another might be a convicted child molester who hopes to trade for more graphic photos with like-minded recipients, the appeals court said.

In asking the high court to take the case, the Bush administration said the 11th Circuit read the law's language more broadly than is warranted.

Congress made clear that "efforts to stimulate, feed or capitalize on a market for what purports to be child pornography deserve no sanctuary," the U.S. Solicitor General's office, the administration's lawyer before the justices, said in court papers.

Authorities arrested Williams in an undercover operation aimed at combating child exploitation on the Internet. A Secret Service agent engaged Williams in an Internet chat room where they swapped non-pornographic photographs. After the initial photo exchange, Williams allegedly posted seven images of actual minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Agents who executed a search warrant found 22 child-porn images in Williams' home.

The case is U.S. v. Williams, 06-694.


Update
High court upholds part of child-porn law
Justices vote 7-2, rejecting concerns that PROTECT Act could apply to mainstream movies depicting adolescent sex. 05.19.08

Related

Federal court strikes down COPA

'Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections … are chipped away in the name of their protection,' judge says. 03.22.07

The PROTECT Act and the First Amendment
By Ambika J. Biggs Legislative effort to safeguard children after parts of CPPA were struck down raises its own free-expression problems concerning virtual child pornography. 08.27.03

PROTECT Act to face high court scrutiny
By Tony Mauro Justices to decide whether latest congressional effort to combat child pornography violates First Amendment. 03.27.07

Court opens term with First Amendment case
2007-08 Supreme Court term preview by Tony Mauro Justices to decide three election- or voting-related cases, consider appeal from government on Internet law. 10.01.07

Court may have found child-porn law it can support
By Tony Mauro Idea of limiting interpretation of 2003 PROTECT Act so it won’t be overly broad seems to take hold among justices. 10.31.07

Too much sex or too much law?
By Paul K. McMasters Protecting kids from porn and smut — without criminalizing protected speech — can be a complicated legal business. 11.19.06

2006-07 Supreme Court case tracker

Virtual child pornography

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