From Peer-to-Peer Networks to Cloud Computing: How Technology Is Redefining Child Pornography Laws
41 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2012 Last revised: 13 Mar 2014
Date Written: February 16, 2012
Child pornography circulating in cyberspace has ballooned into the millions. To punish this flood, the law must accurately delineate culpable conduct. Technology such as peer-to-peer networks has erased the divisions among traders of child pornography, and, therefore, the differentials in punishment have lost their underpinnings. The current sentencing controversy surrounding child pornographers is merely the tip of the iceberg of the larger need to revamp the offenses themselves.
This paper provides a framework for a normative critique of the offenses and their sentences. It suggests the law could better reflect technology by comporting with a refined harm rationale that rests on the fundamental injury to the victim’s dignity and privacy. Drawing on comparisons to diverse laws such as the Geneva Convention’s ban on photographs of prisoners of war, this paper states all traders in child pornography violate the rights of the children depicted and therefore inflict harm, albeit at different levels. Accordingly, the paper proposes three categories: producers, traders, and seekers of child pornography with base sentences varying accordingly. Starting at the same base level, the Sentencing Commission could then propose enhancements or departures to distinguish among the traders and their individual culpability.
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