Writer's question: when is it child porn?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by LarryDavenport, Jan 23, 2002.

  1. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Cinematographer

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    This is a tough question and I wasn't sure where to look for it on the net.

    My question is, if I am writing about an autobigraphical incidence of a sexual nature (a game of Truth or Consequences when I was 12, involving girls who were 14), what are the legal ramifications?

    My intention of writing this anecdote is not to be prurient or to arouse the reader, I am just trying to illustrate my formative years where "girls suddenly became interesting."

    Basically, I don't want to go to jail for writing about something that a lot of people have experienced.

    If you know the answer or can direct me to a web page that might explain the law, please let me know.
     
  2. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    I had always thought that child pornography was illegal in order to protect children from exploitation and predatory victimization.

    Then I heard a news report on NPR about a writer in Ohio who was prosecuted for writing a fictional (not even auto/biographical!) account of underage sex. He was prosecuted under child pornography laws, even though no children were victimized or exploited.

    I never heard the outcome of the case, but I’d be careful nonetheless.
     
  3. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Cinematographer

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    I have heard of the case in Ohio (I believe it was the case of a registered sex offender who had been keeping a journal of his fantasies. Though I don't beleive he acted on his fantasies, I think his writings technically violated his parole.
    What makes me ask the question was I remember a few years back, that The Tin Drum was banned (both the book and the movie) because of the depiction of preteen sex.
    Like I said, I'm not looking to give anyone a boner with what I am writing, I just want to write the facts of what happened without getting into trouble.
    Most Americans had their first sexual experience before the age of 18. It's hypocritical if we can't talk about it.
     
  4. Don Black

    Don Black Screenwriter

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    This is a very dangerous issue. One of my sister's NYU law professor's assigned the definition of "child pornography" as a final exam to her class. Basically, it varies by community and has to meet certain key criteria to be considered illegal. However, these deciding factors can be manipulated by either side towards their position.

    The issue is so dangerous, that journalists who write about it have been imprisoned because in investigating their stories they accidentally came across samples of it and were arrested.

    Moreover, the Supreme Court currently has on its docket a case that will decide whether or not "pornographic" photographs that depict ADULTS as minors should be considered illegal. Basically, if you have a 25 year-old model that looks 17, you can be arrested for child porn.

    The dangers to the first ammendment are pretty easy to see. Think about how difficult it was for Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain to make Lolita?
     
  5. Hugh Jackes

    Hugh Jackes Supporting Actor

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    Or Kate Winslet to portray a 17-year old Rose in a bit of "child porn" that almost everybody in the world has seen.
     
  6. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    I think you're OK, as far as I know nobody (save that one case in Ohio, but that was a little different) has been prosecuted for writing about fictional events.

    As for the "25 year old who looks 17" thing, that makes no sense whatsoever, unless it also works the other way. That's how the law was in Sweden, but I believe it's been changed now. That's why Traci Lord's movies that she did when she was 16 were legal there, since she looked like an adult it wasn't child porn.

    Personally, I think the rule should be that if someone can have sex off camera, they should be able to have sex on camera.

    /Mike
     
  7. Pete_S

    Pete_S Stunt Coordinator

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    Stephen King's It delves into underage sex a bit, and it's still on bookshelves. I can't recall the specifics, but it's made quite clear what the kids in the story are doing. Might be worth checking out as a point of reference (it's towards the end of the book).
     
  8. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

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    Panic over the sexuality of children seems to be more focused in the United States.

    Jim
     
  9. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

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    I dunno, Jim, there's been a lot of 'hysteria' & fuss about it in Europe too, especially the UK.
     
  10. RobR

    RobR Second Unit

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    We have Taxi Driver.

    Larry,

    If you plan to publish such an account, it's best to contact a lawyer beforehand.
     
  11. bill lopez

    bill lopez Second Unit

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    KIDS was a movie that should be hard core child porn.
     
  12. Keith Mickunas

    Keith Mickunas Cinematographer

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    Check out IT like Pete suggested. If I remember correctly at the end the kids felt they needed to all have sex with the girl as part of keeping the monster at bay, or something like that. It was rather strange. If I remember correctly they were around 12 at the time.
    Of course, there's also a risk you may be admitting to statuatory rape. That would also depend on where this occurred and what you did.
    Its pretty pathetic that you have to worry about this. I'd talk to a lawyer or perhaps an English professor or someone else that may have knowledge of free speech and whatever else may cover this. You might also call the DA in the area this happened in under the guise of research for an article you're righting.
     
  13. CharlesD

    CharlesD Screenwriter

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    To me common sense would indicate what Larry is talking about is perfectly acceptable. However, under-age sexuality invokes the involvement of Law, Politics and Religion, which all typically operate without any interference from common sense. If you are going to publish this in the US you should talk to a lawyer first IMO.
     
  14. MikeF

    MikeF Stunt Coordinator

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  15. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    Fictional representations of underage sexuality have been tried and convicted (especially in Florida)--most notably comic-book drawn representations. Be careful, and whatever you do, don't distribute it in the Southeast or Utah.
     
  16. Scott Leopold

    Scott Leopold Supporting Actor

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    Up until the case from a few months back, I would have had a very hard time imagining that anyone could be prosecuted for their written work. In the case of the molestor who wrote about his experiences, his writings sprang out of his therapy. The judge did not accept that as a defense. While the guy felt that by writing about it he was relieving his desires in a non-harmful way, the judge felt it was a violation of parole.

    While I personally don't know of any other cases where someone's writing was prosecuted in such a fashion, this ruling sets a very dangerous precedent (I do believe the guy's back in jail as a result of the case). I had always believed that the most important aspect of true child pornography was the harm it caused the child. If someone is writing a fictional account, then nobody has been harmed. By all rights, Stephen King's It should now be pulled from every library & book store in Ohio (the sex scene between the kids, aside from being bizarre and, IMO, unecessary, was pretty graphic from what I remember).

    On a similar note, there is a proposed law that would make any graphical representation of child pornography the same thing as child pornography. This includes computer-altered pictures (the primary target of this proposed law) and all manner of art. It could easily include innocent baby pictures and legitimate art. I don't know the current status of the bill, but the last I heard, it was very close to approval by one branch of Congress or the other.
     
  17. Bill McA

    Bill McA Producer

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    Kiddie porn laws are made to protect children, so what if...

    An underage child takes nude photos of themselves...is that child porn?

    If that child still possesses those photos while an adult...can they be charged for owning kiddie porn?

    If that adult distributes those nude photos of themselves, taken by themselves as children...can they be charged for distibuting kiddie porn?

    If pornographer takes nude photos of a child, and as an adult, that child finds nothing offensive about those photos, and as an adult, distributes those nude photos of themselves (taken by a genuine pornographer)...can the grown child be charged for kiddie porn?
     
  18. Ike

    Ike Screenwriter

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    Bill,

    Your situtation is highly unlikely, and I doubt we'll ever see anything like it in our lifetime. Not to mention, since the laws are meant to protect children, they've sort of morphed into keeping the stuff away from the perverts. Otherwise, you'd see cartoon porn all over the place, and it'd be legal.

    I think that no one's going to prosecute you, and my own inclination is to say, "Write whatever the hell you want to!" but since I realize this could get sticky for you, if your serious about publication, it may not be such a bad idea to talk to a lawyer.
     
  19. Don Black

    Don Black Screenwriter

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    Well, nude images of minors isn't considered child pornography. You can buy books full of photographs of naked teens and children from some Barnes & Nobles since the photographers who shot the pictures consider it to be art. In order for it to be considered child pornography, a series of criteria need to be met. I don't know offhand what those factors are but I do know that there is much debate over them.
     
  20. Dana Fillhart

    Dana Fillhart Supporting Actor

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    Another fascinating (not to mention disturbing) novel is Piers Anthony's Firefly. I'm not sure if it's been banned, but it's definitely out of print, and in this environment I seriously doubt it'd ever be reprinted -- you can't get more explicit than what he did in this book! I read it in college over a decade ago, and still remember a lot of it quite vividly. With today's current atmosphere, I'm quite happy I lost the book in one of my moves many years ago.
     

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