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Virtual child porn ban revived in Ashcroft bill

Solon targets computer-generated images

WASHINGTON — Attorney General John Aschroft announced legislation Wednesday that would restore a “virtual child pornography” law recently struck down by the country’s highest court for treading on the First Amendment, potentially even applying to such Hollywood pics as “Traffic” or “American Beauty.”

On April 16, the Supreme Court ruled that the child pornography law — defined as material using young adults or computer-generated images to depict children — was too broad and prohibited speech that contained serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that a number of movies, filmed with young adult actors and actresses who only looked like minors, fell within the scope of the law.

The Director’s Guild of America lauded the high court ruling, saying it preserves the right to freedom of speech.

Ashcroft, however, said the high court’s ruling essentially legalizes computer-generated pornography. The new legislation attempts to address some of the high court’s concerns.

“In a world in which virtual images are increasingly indistinguishable from reality, prosecutors are now forced to prove that sexually explicit images involving children were, in fact, produced through the abuse of children, an extremely difficult task in today’s Internet child pornography market,” Ashcroft said as the legislation was introduced on Capitol Hill.

Ashcroft’s bill prohibits the production, distribution and possession of visual depictions, real or virtual, of children under 13 years of age engaged in sexually explicit behavior.