This case brief shall review the Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition 535 U.S. 234
(2002) based on the IRAC method. The facts of the case, the procedural posture, the issues presented, the holding, the court rationale and my own inferences and opinion will be discussed.
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The Fact of the Case
In this case, the adult entertainment business association, best known as the Free Speech Coalition filed a suit in which they alleged that the phrases “conveys the impression” and “appears to be” as enshrined in the Child Pornography Prevention Act (1996) as vague and overbroad thereby contravening the First Amendment. The Act prohibited any visual depiction through photographs, film, video, pictures or computer generated images that appear to be of a minor(s) engaging explicit sexual conducts. It also prohibited advertising, promotion, presentation, description and distribution of the same in a way depicting that a minor(s) are engaging in explicit sexual conducts (White, 2008).
The Issue Presented before the Court in Regards of the Case
The central question that made the case significant was whether the government could succeed in banning the virtual children pornography that are not necessarily not obscene, thereby effectively forbidding the publication of explicit pictures or images of adults who are looking young and are posing as minors and also ban images that are computer generated in which children appear to be having sex (Holliday, 2003; Hall, 2011).
Holding of the Court
The court, through an opinion by Justice, held that all the three sections of the Child Pornography Prevention Act (1996) were vague and were actually ‘unconstitutionally overboard’. The Court held that the First Amendments made provisions that prohibited the Congress from erecting legislations that criminalized the production of images of fictitious children getting engaged in fictional sexual conducts. It therefore held that Congress had improperly outlawed the depictions that are in essence protected in the First Amendment (Scott & Albott, 1997).
Rationale of the Court
The court reasoned that the Child Pornography Prevention Act (1996) had effectively prohibited speech that records does not record crime and/or create any victims by its creation and production. This is because the Act didn’t contain any exception for artistic, literary, scientific and political works that are of serious value; making it applicable, for instance, to a movies that depicts gory sexual abuse and, a photo in a psychological manual, which could contain teenage character that are apparently having sex (Pilon & Moller,2007).
Concurring and Dissenting Opinions
As in many cases, the presiding judges were not unanimous in their take on many of the issues that this case brought up. For instance, the judges voted 7 to 2 on the ruling that was meant to reverse the ban on the appearance of adult actors who pass as children; the judges voted the same to overturn the pandering provision in the Act. Besides, the judges voted 6 to 3 while ruling on upholding the argument against the images that are generated by the computer (Holzer, 2012). These variations portray that the court was largely against the provision that banned the appearance of children-looking adults in such publications than the manner in which the Act addressed computer generated images that depict under-age persons engaging in explicit sexual conducts. This disparity in voting of the judges is crucial taking into account the fact the interests that will be handling in trying to redress children virtual pornography.
It also important to ask ourselves if at all the images generated by computer in which children are engaging in explicit sexual conduct result into any meaningful artistic, literary, scientific and political value. This question needs to be addressed as soon as possible given that the Free Speech Coalition is in the business of the production and distribution of adult material.
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