Child pornography laws in Australia

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Child pornography laws in Australia prohibit all sexual depictions of children under the age of 18 (or under 16 in some states). The law also covers depictions of sexual acts involving people over the age of 18 who are simulating or otherwise alluding to being underage, even if all those involved are of a legal age.[1] Furthermore, there is a zero-tolerance policy in place, which covers purely fictional children as well as real children.[2] The possession, production, distribution, import, export, sale, or access over the internet of child pornography is punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine up to A$275,000 as well as sex offender register requirements.

Japanese anime and hentai[edit]

In August 2007, an Australian was sentenced to pay an A$9,000 fine for attempting to import eight DVDs of Japanese anime and hentai found to contain pornographic depictions of children and 14 found to contain depictions of sexual violence. No images of real children were involved. "Customs National Manager Investigations, Richard Janeczko, said that it was important to understand that even cartoons or drawings such as those depicted in anime were prohibited if they contained offensive sexual content."[3]

Cartoon depictions[edit]

Also, in December 2008, a New South Wales Supreme Court judge, Justice Michael Adams, ruled to uphold a magistrate's decision that a pornographic cartoon parodying characters on The Simpsons (Bart and Lisa) was child pornography, because "[i]t follows that a fictional cartoon character, even one which departs from recognisable human forms in some significant respects, may nevertheless be the depiction of a person within the meaning of the Act."[4][5]

The Appellant, Alan John McEwan, was fined $3000 Aus ($3,170 US). Judge Adams explained the law was appropriate because cartoons could "fuel demand for material that does involve the abuse of children", also adding "A cartoon character might well constitute the depiction of such a person".[6] A BBC reporter summarized the judge's decision: "he decided that the mere fact that they were not realistic representations of human beings did not mean that they could not be considered people".[7]

This case has attracted international attention, alongside attention to more local cases, with author Neil Gaiman commenting on it: "I suspect the Judge might have just inadvertantly [sic] granted human rights to cartoon characters. I think it's nonsensical in every way that it could possibly be nonsensical."[8]

Case concerning a written work[edit]

In March 2011, a Tasmanian man was convicted of possessing child pornography after police investigators discovered an electronic copy of a nineteenth-century written work, The Pearl by Anonymous on his computer. Harper Collins is the most recent publisher of The Pearl, which is available for purchase within Australia.[9] However the conviction was set aside on appeal.[10]

See also[edit]