The bill originally introduced by Senator Hatch, was included in part of a broad spending Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 1997 which was signed into law by President Clinton. It had passed the US Senate on September 30, 1996 just hours before the midnight deadline for the start of fiscal year 1997.

It has been amended with a Hatch-Bidden substitute but there has been only small changes. The new legislation expands the definition of child pornography. Section 3 of the 1996 Act, adds a new subsection to 18 U.S.C. 2256(8) which now defines child pornography as:

any visual depiction, including any photograph, film , video, picture, drawing or computer or computer-generated image or picture, which is produced by electronic, mechanical or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where:
  1. its production involved the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, or;
  2. such visual depiction is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
  3. such visual depiction has been created, adapted or modified to appear that an `identifiable minor’ is engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  4. it is advertised, distributed, promoted or presented in such a manner as to convey the impression that it is a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
The term identifiable minor would be identified in 18 U.S .C. 2256(9) to mean a minor who is capable of being recognized as an actual person by, for example, his face or other distinguishing feature or physical characteristic, although a prosecutor would not be required to prove the minor’s actual identity.

The new 18 U.S.C. 2252A sets mandatory prison sentences of at least 15 years for production and distribution of child pornography. The act also includes and makes subject to the same provison, the receivers of child pornography. 5 years for possession offences and life imprisonment for repeat offenders convicted of sexual abuse of a minor.

Section 2 of the 1996 Act includes important findings related to pseudo-photographs and explains why it should be illegal as:

Computer-generated child pornography results in many of the same types of harm, and poses the same danger to the well-being of children, as photographic child pornography, and provide a compelling governmental interest for prohibiting the production, distribution, possessing, sale or viewing of all forms of child pornography, including computer-generated depictions which are, or appear to be, of children engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

The 1996 Act may be subject to a legal challenge by some of the civil liberties groups such as ACLU because according to their view, the Act would be unconstitutional because it outlaws images produced without any involvement by an actual child.

Source: http://www.cyber-rights.org/reports/uscases.htm

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