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The US Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered a blow to prudes throughout the land, when it ruled 6-3 that sexual material which doesn't involve the abuse of actual children is legal.

At issue was the Child Pornography Prevention Act, which Congress passed in 1996 to purge society of dangerous images and ideas.

The Act would have outlawed anything which 'appears to depict' an underage person in a sexual act. That would mean a movie scene where young-looking adult actors give the impression that teenagers are doing the deed. We've seen that in scores of films like "Endless Love", "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", "Lolita", and even the recent "Traffic" (in which, ironically, a conservative US Senator Orrin Hatch appears as himself in a brief cameo). It would also cover realistic-looking art.

Part of the rationale behind the Act was to prevent children from being exposed to images and performances which might suggest to them that having sex with Uncle or with Coach is a fab idea, and quite popular among their peers.

According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, "the mere tendency of speech to encourage unlawful acts is not a sufficient reason for banning it."

The Court also observed that speech and art would be preempted out of fear. "Few legitimate movie producers or book publishers, or few other speakers in any capacity, would risk distributing images in or near the uncertain reach of this law,'' Justice Kennedy wrote.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft whinged during a press conference that prosecuting KP perverts will become "immeasurably more difficult" now that it will be necessary to prove that an objectionable image or performance is the real thing. Apparently, the DoJ has been prosecuting people for materials it isn't quite sure are actual child porn. This will have to stop. But the Lord Protector said he would do his best to tack on other recognized offenses to keep current prosecutions from evaporating.

It is of course still extremely illegal to produce or possess pornography which involves the sexual abuse of children, or which uses the image of an actual, identifiable child in such materials, but simulations are acceptable. Score one for the porn lobby. ®

Related Story

US Supremes mull future of Net porn

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