photo for porn trapsThere are many ways in which the mere viewing of adult internet pornography can get you in trouble. Many porn users and porn addicts are unaware of these legal traps or choose not to think about them.

But even if the porn has entirely adult content and even if there are no real children depicted anywhere in it, there are ways porn addicts and porn users can get in trouble.

You may be looking at “child porn” and not realize it

Under current US law, the definition of child pornography has been expanded to include digital images and images where there is no actual child involved.  It has also been expanded to include

“…photographs, videos, digital or computer generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor, and images created, adapted, or modified, but appear to depict an identifiable, actual minor.  Undeveloped film, undeveloped videotape, and electronically stored data…”

Affirmative duty to report someone’s use of porn at work

According to the 2010 Nielson Company survey 29% or 21 million Americans access porn at work.  There are a number of dangers inherent in watching adult porn sites at work:

Downloading adult content can lead to malicious software on your computer that loads porn onto your home page every time you log on.  At the very least this means that you will be exposed, at least to your IT person.

Harassment: if another employee has complained about your porn use the employer has a legal obligation to change the situation.  If you work in a non-government job, there is no federal law that prohibits employers from searching an employee’s computer.

If child porn is found on your workplace computer your employer has a legal responsibility to report you to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Some states have passed legislation that makes viewing porn on a school district’s computer reason to revoke a teacher’s license.  Teachers generally are particularly likely to lose their jobs over porn viewing.

Thinking only porn you downloaded counts

Possessing child pornography is a violation of federal law, but some people still make the mistake of thinking that they are not in “possession” of child porn if they viewed it but did not knowingly download it (i.e. if it was cached by their computer automatically.)

Lack of knowledge has worked in overturning a child porn possession conviction but the federal law actually criminalizes any act of accessing or attempting to view child porn.  (The law allows for a defense of accidental viewing if you view less than 3 images and delete them immediately.)

Photography can be porn production

Nude photos are not necessarily deemed erotic content.  But you are on shaky ground with photographing your teenage girlfriend in erotic poses.  You need also to be aware of federal criteria in the law cited above that classifies porn as child porn when it depicts content

“in such a manner that conveys the impression that the material is or contains a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”

The law says that Congress has made a clear determination that “pseudo-child pornography” places children at risk by encouraging certain behaviors and being susceptible to invidious uses by pedophiles to harm children.

Professional reporting laws

All states have laws requiring the reporting (to child protection/law enforcement) of child abuse and neglect by professionals.  48 states list who these mandatory reporters are (such as medical professionals, therapists and teachers.)  New Jersey and Wyoming have mandatory reporting laws but do not list specific groups of professionals.

You can look up the specifics of the law and of the state requirements for any state, but many state laws do not require professionals like therapists to report porn viewing that is in the past and where there is no suspicion that a child is currently endangered.

States also vary as to the mandatory reporting of “crimes” that people hear about in their professional capacity.  This means that in some instances, the porn related crime may be the possession of porn or child porn or related offenses that are on the books in that jurisdiction.

As I have reported previously, there are still laws on the books from the Bush era that allow for the prosecution distributors of hardcore adult porn.

Prosecution of such cases is a rarity but porn addicts and porn users need to figure out the reporting requirements for their state and make a judgment as to where their therapist stands on weighing confidentiality vs. required reporting.  Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource