Child Pornography and the Restitution Revolution

69 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2012 Last revised: 7 Feb 2013

See all articles by Cortney Lollar

Cortney Lollar

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: August 3, 2012


Victims of child pornography are now successfully seeking restitution from defendants convicted of watching and trading their images. Restitution in child pornography cases, however, represents a dramatic departure from traditional concepts of restitution. This Article offers the first critique of this restitution revolution. Traditional restitution is grounded in notions of unjust enrichment, and seeks to restore the economic status quo between parties by requiring disgorgement of ill-gotten gains. The restitution being ordered in increasing numbers of child pornography cases does not serve this purpose. Instead, child pornography victims are receiving restitution simply for having their images viewed. This royalty-type approach to restitution amounts to a criminal version of damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. To justify this transformation of restitution, courts have come to rely on several commonly accepted, but flawed, theories about the impact of child pornography. Because these theories are unsupported by social science or law, they divert attention from remedies that could better alleviate the harms of child pornography. Rather than restoring victims and encouraging them to move forward with their lives, restitution roots victims in their abuse experience, potentially causing additional psychological harm. Restitution in its new form also allows the criminal justice system to be a state-sponsored vehicle for personal vengeance. This Article calls for an end to the restitution revolution, and proposes several alternative approaches that better identify and address the consequences of child pornography.

Keywords: Restitution, Child Pornography, Remedies, Criminal Law, Child Sexual Abuse, Masha's Law

Suggested Citation

Lollar, Cortney, Child Pornography and the Restitution Revolution (August 3, 2012). Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 2013, Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-08-02, Available at SSRN:

Cortney Lollar (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

85 Park Pl NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
United States

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