Updated 05/18/2012 08:13 PM
Push for change in child pornography laws
This week, New York's highest court issued a surprising ruling about child pornography that spurred state lawmakers to action. YNN's Zack Fink has the details.
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NEW YORK STATE -- The state's highest court raised some eyebrows last week when it addressed how the state's child pornography laws apply to the internet.
In a case involving a college professor in Poughkeepsie, the Court of Appeals ruled that while it's illegal to download or distribute pornography involving children under the age of 16, it's not illegal to only look at the images. After hearing that other states are more restrictive, New York lawmakers are moving to change what they view as an oversight.
"I was actually shocked. It took me about 15 to 20 minutes to get through the alarms that went off in my head to recognize what had happened here," said State Senator Martine Golden.
Golden says his office drafted a bill within hours of the court ruling and on Tuesday, it passed the State Senate. A similar bill is under consideration in the Assembly. The sponsor, Joe Lentol, says the state's law simply needs to be updated.
"When they enacted this law the computer was kind of in its infancy. And so it didn't include things like streaming, which we now have," Assemblyman Joe Lentol said.
But civil libertarians caution that policing the internet is tricky.
"Whenever we as a society try to censor what people can read and what people can access on the internet, it raises concerns about the first amendment," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.
Republicans and Democrats alike seem united on this issue. And Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he supports the bill in concept.
"I haven't seen his bill, honestly. I've read about it in the press. And as long as it’s constitutionally legal, I think it's a worthy bill," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
If New York makes the change, it would comply with federal law which prohibits viewing child pornography. However, it could still potentially be challenged here in the court.