I’m on jury duty today, so legal issues will probably catch my eye more than usual, and this story is pretty unusual. An Australian judge convicted a defendant of possession of child pornography for having hard-core animated cartoons featuring child characters of The Simpsons:
An appeal judge in Australia has ruled that an animation depicting well-known cartoon characters engaging in sexual acts is child pornography.
The internet cartoon featured characters from the Simpsons TV series.
The central issue in the case was whether a cartoon character could depict a real person.
Judge Michael Adams decided that it could, and found a man from Sydney guilty of possessing child pornography on his computer.
The defence had argued that the fictional, animated characters were not real people, and clearly departed from the human form.
I’m not going to defend this particular form of pornography. It’s a case of arrested development, and it’s more than a little perverse. But that doesn’t make it child pornography, although it certainly is a copyright infringement of the most unsympathetic kind.
We proscribe child pornography to keep children from getting sexually exploited. Cartoon characters aren’t real people, and we don’t need to protect them from predators. Extending the definition to fiction makes a mockery of the law and the real damage done to real children by actual violations.
Even the judge appeared to have less than full confidence in his decision. Despite convicting the man of the crime, he only sentenced him to a fine equivalent to US $2000. He’d have been better advised to have the defendant use that money to seek help and then scold prosecutors for overreach.