In 1977, the Sexual Exploitation of Children Act (18 U.S.C. 2251-2253) was enacted. This law prohibits the use of a minor in the making of pornography, the transport of a child across state lines, the taking of a pornographic picture of a minor, and the production and circulation of materials advertising child pornography. It also prohibits the transfer, sale, purchase, and receipt of minors when the purpose of such transfer, sale, purchase, or receipt is to use the child or youth in the production of child pornography. The transportation, importation, shipment, and receipt of child pornography by any interstate means, including by mail or computer, is also prohibited.

The Child Protection Act of 1984 (18 U.S.C. 2251-2255) defines anyone younger than the age of 18 as a child. Therefore, a sexually explicit photograph of anyone 17 years of age or younger is child pornography.

On November 7, 1986, the U.S. Congress enacted the Child Sexual Abuse and Pornography Act (18 U.S.C. 2251-2256), that banned the production and use of advertisements for child pornography and included a provision for civil remedies of personal injuries suffered by a minor who is a victim. It also raised the minimum sentences for repeat offenders from imprisonment of not less than two years to imprisonment of not less than five years.

On November 18, 1988, the U.S. Congress enacted the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act (18 U.S.C. 2251-2256) that made it unlawful to use a computer to transmit advertisements for or visual depictions of child pornography and it prohibited the buying, selling, or otherwise obtaining temporary custody or control of children for the purpose of producing child pornography.

On November 29, 1990, the U.S. Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. 2252 making it a federal crime to possess three or more depictions of child pornography that were mailed or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce or that were produced using materials that were mailed or shipped by any means, including by computer.

With the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, (18 U.S.C. 2422) it is a federal crime for anyone using the mail, interstate or foreign commerce, to persuade, induce, or entice any individual younger than the age of 18 to engage in any sexual act for which the person may be criminally prosecuted.

The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 amends the definition of child pornography to include that which actually depicts the sexual conduct of real minor children and that which appears to be a depiction of a minor engaging in sexual conduct. Computer, photographic, and photocopy technology is amazingly competent at creating and altering images that have been "morphed" to look like children even though those photographed may have actually been adults. People who alter pornographic images to look like children can now be prosecuted under the law.

State governments have taken a number of steps to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. Today, every state has enacted statutes that specifically address the problem of child pornography. Unfortunately, whereas all states impose criminal liability on producers and distributors, there are seven states that have not yet established laws prohibiting the possession of child pornography.

For information on your state's laws on child pornography, please contact the below noted agencies.

National Association of Counsel for Children
1205 Onieda Street
Denver, CO 80220
Telephone: 303-322-2260
Toll-free: 1-888-828-NACC
Fax: 303-329-3523

The National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse

American Prosecutors Research Institute
Suite 510
99 Canal Center Plaza
Alexandria, VA 22314
Telephone: 703-739-0321
Fax: 703-549-6259

National Conference of State Legislatures

Suite 700
1560 Broadway
Denver, CO 80202
Telephone: 303-830-2200


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