The punishment does not fit the child: This week’s Chronicle column

Image via claire.whithard.

In this week’s San Francisco Chronicle column, I take off the gloves about the frightening current issue of authorities criminalizing teen sexuality and prosecuting kids for electronic sexual-self expression as if they are trafficking in child pr0n: it’s a serious problem. Please read Kids Charged for Child Porn – Violet Blue: When Teens Make Their Own Porn, Who’s Being Exploited? I put it all together, and it’s a scary picture. You’ll likely be as outraged as I am. Here’s a snip:

Not so long ago, you could take an album or two (of music, not photos) and record a bunch of different songs, copy them to a cassette tape as a mix, and give the music to a friend. Now, if you do the same thing with online tools, it’s called “file sharing” and has gotten many individuals sued. It also used to be easy to grab a Polaroid camera, take a naked photo, and hand it to a friend. That friend might pass the photo around without you knowing it, but these things happened and this was the risk you took when you pointed the camera at your uncovered bits. It was not totally uncommon for people under the age of eighteen to do this; hormones raging, it happened, and if you got caught you’d be in a lot of trouble. But you were likely mostly embarrassed. And then totally grounded.

Now if people under eighteen do the same thing with online tools and cell phones, they’re being charged with trafficking child pornography or charged as sex offenders – even when they’ve taken the photos themselves.

In March 2004, a 15-year-old Pittsburgh girl was arrested for taking nude photographs of herself and posting them on the Internet; she was charged with sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography. Okay, so maybe in 2004 the people interpreting these laws were slightly more ignorant about how the Internet works and that the legal system just needed to “catch up.” Or so you’d think.

In October 2008, a 15-year-old Newark, Ohio girl was charged with felony child pornography charges for sending nude photographs of herself to a classmate in a text message. Charged with “possessing criminal tools and the illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material,” she’d taken a nekkid pic of herself and sent it to a 13-year-old classmate (male). She currently faces felony sex offense charges, and the likelihood of having to register as a “sex offender” for the rest of her life.

But wait, there’s more. (…read more,

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  1. @Blixa

    I think the bigger point is that we as people can recognize the difference between sharing digital stuff with our friends that we actually know and throwing it up online for mass distribution with anyone and everyone with net access in known human space.

    The RIAA/MPAA et. al. don’t see any difference at all. And that’s a problem for them.

  2. I’d say yes if I owned the rights to my in-print published work. but like the musicians whose songs went from albums onto shared mixtapes, my physical printed media is not under my legal ownership; the permission is not mine to give. (at this time, anyway.) it is owned by the publisher, who holds the legal distribution rights. so if you wanted to see a DRM-free ebook of Best Women’s Erotica 2009, you’d have to ask Cleis Press, or if you wanted to share a digital version of my Oprah Magazine article about porn, you’d have to ask Oprah.

    the barrier to entry for physically distributed media is very high and that’s why artists have historically had to sign away rights to gain access to distribution (and profit from that distribution) in order to gain access to those channels (held by the few). now the barriers are coming down for digital media and distribution, and we don’t have to sign those rights away — as much anymore. now that DRM is dying, the playing field will become more level for artists/writers who want to distribute, profit from, own and let people share their work. but we’ll have to watch Fictionwise, Kindle and Audible crap their pants first. know what I mean?

    nobody ever asked the artists or radio stations before ripping/making mixtapes. but that’s why I started and don’t mind if respectful customers “make a mixtape for a friend.”

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