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Pirate Party: Cartoons are not child porn

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Pirate Party: Cartoons are not child porn
12:02 CEST+02:00
Sweden's Pirate Party said on Thursday that child pornography should be permitted in cartoons. The law should focus on 'real criminals' abusing children, its leader said.

"We want to be extremely clear in that we do not want to legalize any form of the handling of child pornography," the party's leader Rick Falkvinge said in a statement.

Falkvinge expressed regret over comments made in an interview with Sveriges Radio's Ekot news programme on Wednesday admitting that he "expressed himself clumsily".

"It is a restriction on freedom of information to forbid anyone to have - just possess - pictures, text, sound and so on. This was discussed a lot in 1999, before this ban was due to be imposed. In retrospect, we can only conclude that the critics were right on every point," Falvinge told Ekot on Wednesday referring to the new law adopted in Sweden in 1999.

Falkvinge continued to call the law toothless and the party's election manifesto includes the demand for a change in the law and he argues that there is support for the party's position.

"The debate emerged when a man was convicted for the possession of animated comics," Falkvinge said. "In an open society you can not forbid someone from drawing their fantasies. That is our main point in the issue, that we can not have thought crimes in Swedish law."

The Pirate Party has been roundly criticised for its manifesto position and for Falkvinge's comments. But in an opinion article in the Dagens Nyheter daily on Thursday, law professor Madeleine Leijonhuvud gave qualified support to the idea:

"The Pirate Party's demand that comic books should not be child pornography crimes is one that I share - albeit with a completely different underlying outlook than that I have met in discussions with its representatives," said Leijonhuvud, who took part in the consultation process surrounding the 1999 law.

Leijonhuvud argues that child pornography legislation should be framed along the lines of the crime of receiving stolen goods, "an offence framed in its the context of its subsequent participation".

"The only reasonable course of action is to regard pictures of the assault on children as a further crime against the affected child," she said explaining that the 1999 legislation, which was amended as late as 2009, classifies the crime instead as a public order offence.

Leijonhuvud argues that legally it is important to recognise the market aspect of the crime in that the demand for child pornography is directly connected to the assaults committed to obtain it, and as such its possession should be classified instead as a sexual offence in the statute book.

"It is important to recognize that it is the children exposed to this spread of violence that are the victims, those against whom this conduct is directed."

As cartoon images of fictional children have not been preceded by an assault and are simply the figments of an individual's imagination as Falkvinge argues, then if the crime were classified to reflect a sexual offence they would not be illegal, Leijonhuvud explains.

The professor recognizes that modern technology enables the manipulation of pictures and could thus complicate proving that a real child was involved but argues that if the law were considered similar to the handling of stolen goods then all that would be required is to establish the existence of "reasonable assumption that another crime had occurred".

She underlines that it is already a crime to abuse a minor (under 15-years-old in Sweden) to make sexual poses, extended up to 18-years-old if the posing is deemed to harm the child's health and development.

Pirate Party vice-chairperson Anna Troberg told The Local on Thursday that the party wants to see legal resources directed at tackling "real child pornography" and to stop making criminals of large numbers of other innocent people.

"The current law is wasting resources chasing pretend criminals and should be focusing on real child pornography, with real children involved, not manga comics, holiday pictures and so on," she said.

Troberg recognized that modern technology allows for the manipulation of pictures and that even cartoon animations could depict real life situations and children, but argues that the police have the technology to establish the difference.

"The problem is that they focus on the pictures and not the victims and waste masses of resources," Anna Troberg told the Local. "We in fact want to go further to tackle the spread of child pornography and propose the closure of offending websites with the help of economic crime legislation."

The Pirate Party was formed in 2006 campaigning on a platform of copyright and patent reform and privacy issues. The party gained 0.63 percent of the votes at the 2006 general election and 7.13 percent of the votes in the 2009 European Parliament elections, winning two seats.

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