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Supreme Court to review case on ‘virtual’ child pornography

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide the constitutionality of a federal law that bans child pornography depicting computer-generated images that appear to be of actual children.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, located in San Francisco, struck down a 1996 congressional measure that criminalizes the transmission, reception or possession of an image that “appears to be of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct” or to describe such an image in a manner that “conveys the impression” that it shows an actual child, according to The New York Times. Three other appeals courts, however, have upheld the law, which the Ninth Circuit ruled against in 1999.

The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments in Reno v. Free Speech Coalition until next fall.

In adopting the Child Pornography Prevention Act, Congress contended the law would help protect children from desensitized viewers of computer-generated images of “virtual” child pornography, according to The Times. The Justice Department argued in a brief filed with the high court two months ago the Ninth Circuit’s ruling undercuts the prosecution of real child pornography because the sophistication of imaging technology makes it difficult to prove an image is of an actual child, The Times reported.

In a 2-1 opinion, a Ninth Circuit panel ruled the law was too vague, according to The Times.

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