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Court asks if porn law covers mainstream films

  Law Center  -   POSTED: 2007/10/31 11:45

Several U.S. Supreme Court justices expressed doubt on Tuesday that a law barring child pornography could be applied to popular award-winning movies like "Lolita," "Traffic," American Beauty" and "Titanic."

The justices appeared to support the pandering provision of a 2003 federal law that makes it a crime to promote, distribute or solicit material in a way intended to cause others to believe it contains child pornography.

They were hearing arguments in a case brought by the Bush administration urging them to uphold the law, after a U.S. appeals court struck down that provision on the grounds the government cannot suppress lawful free speech.

Bush administration lawyer Paul Clement argued that the law does not illegally infringe on free-speech or other rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

He said the law does not inhibit legitimate creative expression, and drew a distinction between mainstream movies and illegal child pornography.

"If you're taking a movie like 'Traffic' or 'American Beauty', which is not child pornography, and you're simply truthfully promoting it, you have nothing to worry about with this statute," Clement told the justices.

"Traffic" has a scene with the high-school daughter of the nation's drug czar appearing to have sex with a drug dealer; "Lolita" portrayed a middle-aged man's obsession with a young girl; "Titanic" depicted a love affair by a young couple on a doomed ship; and "American Beauty" involved a 42-year-old man's attraction to his daughter's best friend.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked the attorney who is challenging the law about the government's distinction between legitimate films and illegal child pornography.


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