Law and Order

New York State Appeals Court Rules That Looking at Child Porn is Now Legal

Several charges against Professor James D. Kent were dropped after a judge ruled viewing child pornography isn't a crime in itself.
 New York State Appeals Court Rules That Looking at Child Porn is Now Legal

(flickr.com/crobj)

Deep web crawlers who have ever accidentally clicked on anything labeled “CP” may now breathe a sigh of relief: an appeals court in New York decided today in a vaguely disturbing ruling that simply viewing child pornography is not a crime.

According to MSNBC:

The decision rests on whether accessing and viewing something on the Internet is the same as possessing it, and whether possessing it means you had to procure it. In essence, the court said no to the first question and yes to the second.

We understand the importance of that distinction–after all, should someone really be thrown in jail for accidentally clicking on something disturbing on 4chan? But when applied to something as terrible as child pornography, where the rules are explicitly set up to protect the abuse of minors, it becomes a little bit more to fathom.

As Sam Biddle at Gizmodo put it, “Laws that deal with computers need to wrap themselves around how we actually use computers, not be snagged on the most literal technicalities. Unless we want our laws to start doing things like inadvertently permitting kiddie porn.”

We look forward to seeing how Law and Order: SVU handles this bizarre decision.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com