Free Speech On The Internet After The Virtual Child Porn Case

A recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Ashcroft v. the Free Speech Coalition, issued in April 2002, stated that the Child Pornography Prevention Act was unconstitutional. The high court struck down the federal law because it prohibited the distribution and possession of virtual child pornography that appears to, but does not actually, depict children participating in sexual acts. After this ruling, the government promised to pursue new avenues for protecting children from online pornography. Thereafter, on April 30, 2002, U.S. Representative Lamar Smith introduced the Child Obscenity and Pornography Prevention Act of 2002 (COPPA). Although the latest proposed law seeks to remedy what was found to be unconstitutional in earlier laws, it is not expected that this latest law will stem the tide of online pornography.

The following questions have been addressed in this article:

Isn't the case that virtual child pornography is just as harmful -- or can be just a harmful -- to minors as pornography that depicts actual children?
After the ruling in Free Speech Coalition, is it lawful to promote a film or other work as depicting the sexual activity of minors, even though the work itself does not involve actual children?
Will the latest proposed law, COPPA, change the restrictions proposed for online pornography in such a way that it can be regulated in accord with the First Amendment?
Does the virtual porn case have ramifications for other areas, such as the use of computer-generated celebrity images as actors, in order to avoid paying the price of using, for example, an actual, Academy-award winning actor in a commercial?

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