Feeds

Is it art or is it pr0n? Australia decides it's ALL filth

Won't someone think of the pictures of children?

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Australian painters and photographers may soon need to watch their step, as an overhaul of child pornography laws in New South Wales looks set to remove the defence of "artistic merit" from the statute books.

The issue arose when Police raided an exhibition of works by Melbourne artist Bill Henson in May 2008. They were responding to a public outcry over the picture of a naked 12-year-old girl featured on an invitation to the exhibition. The exhibition was closed, and 32 pictures were seized.

However, the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, QC, declined to prosecute, while the Classification Board declared the images were not pornography. The controversy was taken up by the State Government, which instructed the Child Pornography Working Party to review the existing laws and to create a clear distinction between child porn and art.

This they have now done with the simple recommendation, contained in a report presented last Friday, that art cease to be a consideration when determining whether an image is or is not pornographic.

This conclusion has been supported by NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos, who said that any new laws should apply to the production, distribution and possession of child pornography. He added: "The fact that it is art cannot be used as a defence. The report recommends that once such material has been found to be unlawfully pornographic, whether or not it is intended to be art is irrelevant."

This conclusion has been welcomed by Hetty Johnston, chief executive of Child protection group Bravehearts. She said: "This makes the intention clear that legislatively the mood is to change on child sexual exploitation.

"The arts community might be concerned about the loss of their rights but I'm more concerned about the rights of children."

She also expressed the hope that the legislation, would be replicated in other parts of Australia, such as Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

This issue goes to the heart of what is considered pornographic, with a growing tendency in some legislatures to regard nudity – particularly nudity of children – as sexual and therefore, by definition, pornographic, irrespective of the content of the picture.

Back in October 2008, a New York art gallery responded to the Henson controversy by deleting images of naked adolescent girls from an online promotion of a new exhibition by that artist.

In autumn 2009, the Tate Gallery removed a picture of a young Brooke Shields from public display after the police suggested that it might fall foul of laws on child pornography.

Whilst it is easy to understand the intention behind this proposed change to the law, it is less easy to see how it will work in practice. In the UK, the Obscene Publications Act 1959 specifically exempts material produced for artistic, scientific or literary purposes. Removing these exemptions would see huge swathes of material – from books on medieval art, to modern medical textbooks – at risk of prohibition.

Even the extreme porn laws much criticised by libertarians within the UK make it plain that whether material is deemed to be pornographic or not will depend on the purpose for which it was created (i.e., material created for purposes of sexual arousal is likely to be deemed pornographic). Whilst this is not a full-blown artistic exemption, it is clear that the scope exists within the legislation for the courts to build one into the law.

Assuming that the NSW government gets its act together on these proposals, they could be brought before the State parliament within the next month. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.