Morphing Provision: Man Charged For Possessing Fake Pornography

A 73-year-old man is facing charges that he possessed child pornography-even though authorities never caught him with authentic images depicting children. Instead, the police found images of adults in sexually explicit positions with the faces of minors pasted or attached above those of the adult models.

This prosecution is occurring under the so-called "morphing provision." The "morphing provision" refers to the definition of child pornography that appears in federal criminal statutes. While this decision is somewhat controversial, several federal appeals courts have agreed that digitally altered images that appear to depict children qualify as illegal material under the rest of the child pornography laws. This interpretation of the definition allows prosecutors to try to punish Americans for possessing pictures like the ones this defendant had.

Some courts disagree with the "morphing provision" interpretation. One big reason for this disagreement is that altered pictures did not involve a minor's participation in sexual conduct. This takes away one of the big justifications for harsh child pornography laws. Those who agree with the broad "morphing provision" interpretation argue that the mere existence of pictures that appear to depict children in sexual situations could lead to more child abuse at some point by encouraging those who view the images.

Regardless of the correct interpretation, the "morphing provision" view appears to be gaining traction nationally. This defendant could face as many as 10 years in prison if convicted of possessing child pornography based on these altered images.

Source: Thomson Reuters Legal, "N.Y. man charged with possessing cut-and-paste child porn," Jessica Dye, Jan. 25, 2013

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