GIF child porn illegal

A federal court rules that computerized GIF files of child pornography are just as illegal as glossy print pictures, undeveloped film, or videos.

A federal court ruled today that computerized GIF files of pornographic images of children are just as illegal as glossy print pictures, undeveloped film, or videos.

The decision was sparked by Mark Stuart Hockings's appeal to his guilty conviction for possessing eight computer images of child porn, and transporting 16 such digital pictures across state lines. The sexual pictures of underage subjects were compressed as GIF (graphics interchange format) files--as are most images on the Web.

Today, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected Hockings's claim that GIF files were not included under the federal child pornography law.

"In 1996, the statutory definition was expanded to include 'data stored on computer disk or by electronic means which is capable of conversion into a visual image,'" the court's ruling stated.

"It leads to an absurdity to find that Congress intended to outlaw the transportation of pornographic visual depictions of children by computer, yet conclude that Congress did not intend to include GIF files within the definition of visual depiction," the justices added. "GIF files are merely a means of storage and transportation of visual depictions."

In August, a federal judge in San Francisco held up a separate child porn law pertaining to computer images. U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti let stand the Child Pornography Prevention Act, which makes it a felony to create computer images depicting "simulated" sex with minors.

Conti ruled that Congress has a constitutional right to ban "fake" child porn. The plaintiffs, the Free Speech Coalition, appealed the ruling.

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