There is an interesting criminal case in Canada where American Peter Hasler, 25, of Murrells Inlet, S.C., is under arrest for possession of child pornography. However, the images were not of human beings but cartoon characters. Canada treats sexual cartoon images as pornography – a view widely rejected in the United States as inimical to free speech protections.
In 2002, the Supreme Court handed down Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234 (2002), striking down two provisions of the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996. One of the provisions criminalized “any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture” that “is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.” The Court found the Act unconstitutionally criminalized “the freedom to engage in a substantial amount of lawful speech” and cites a wide array of artistic works that would be deemed child pornography under the two provisions. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the majority decision “[t]he prospect of crime, however, by itself does not justify laws suppressing protected speech.”
Hasler was arrested at Halifax Stanfield International Airport after a search of his laptop turned up 137 animated images of characters under the age of 18 being sexually abused . . . cartoon characters. He pleaded guilty in Dartmouth provincial court to a Customs Act charge of smuggling prohibited goods and received a 90-day jail sentence. He was given credit for 38 days in custody. He will serve the remainder of days and then be deported and likely have difficulty ever again entering Canada.
The South Carolina security guard says that he had no idea that cartoon characters are considered child pornography in Canada, which is certainly believable given the position of U.S. courts but not a defense to the charges.
I do not question the description of the images of the prosecutor and judge as being “vile” and “disturbing.” However, there remains a serious question of whether computer generated images or cartoon images should be deemed child pornography when they do not depict any actual human being, let alone an actual child.
Source: Chronicle Herald