For Immediate Release

April 16, 2002
New York, NY

The National Coalition Against Censorship praised today’s 6-3 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition that struck down the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 as overbroad and unconstitutional. The statute that was struck down by the ruling prohibited "any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer-generated image or picture" that "is or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct."

In today’s ruling, the Court declared that the CPPA extended child pornography laws in ways that violated the First Amendment and did not comply with existing obscenity laws. The Court also rejected government arguments that the CPPA was necessary to protect children. Past rulings by the Court addressing this issue have outlawed child pornography based on multiple factors including the harm caused to the children involved by the production and dissemination of such material. However, today the Court distinguished the difference between the use of real children and the use of images or actors that "appear to be" or "convey the impression" of minors in declaring the CPPA unconstitutional.

"Congress passed an indefensible law that, on its face, would criminalize various scenes in movies like Traffic and America Beauty and make production and possession punishable by up to 15 years of prison," said Joan Bertin, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. "As the Supreme Court recognized, numerous other laws suffice to protect children from sexual exploitation and predation, making this overbroad restriction on speech unnecessary," added Bertin.