[JURIST] New York Governor Andrew Cuomo [official website; press release] on Friday signed into law a bill [program bill no. 44, PDF] that amends the state’s penal code to prohibit the access and viewing of child pornography on the Internet. The bill was passed in response to the state Court of Appeals [official website] decision in People v. Kent [opinion, PDF], which held that under existing New York law an individual who views child pornography online does not legally “possess” child pornography. The legislation closes that gap in the law by amending provisions of § 263 of the New York state penal code to make the intentional online viewing of child pornography a felony. In a statement in support [memorandum, PDF] of the bill Cuomo declared that the legislation will strengthen New York’s laws against child pornography:
The State has a compelling interest in safeguarding the physical and psychological well-being of minors … The Court [in Kent] specifically invited the State to amend the Penal Law to criminalize accessing child pornography with the intent to view it on the internet. This bill would address this glaring loophole.
Kent was decided in May of this year. The bill’s provisions are slated to take effect immediately.
Child pornography has been a hot-button legal issue in recent years. In March 2010 the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a Pennsylvania prosecutor cannot file child pornography charges against a teenage girl whose topless photo was found on a number of her schoolmates’ cell phones. The three girls implicated in the case refused to attend a class on sexual violence and gender identity and sought a temporary injunction prohibiting prosecution, which the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] issued [JURIST report] in March of 2009. In August 2009 the Third Circuit upheld [JURIST report] a 20-year prison sentence and a 10-year Internet ban imposed on a man convicted of receiving child pornography.