A Supreme Court judge in Australia has ruled that an internet cartoon in which look-a-like child characters from The Simpsons engage in sexual acts is child pornography.
In a landmark finding, Justice Michael Adams upheld a decision convicting a man of possessing child pornography after the cartoons, depicting characters modelled on Bart, Lisa and Maggie engaging in sex acts, were found on his computer.
The main issue of the case was whether a fictional cartoon character could "depict" a "person" under law.
"If the persons were real, such depictions could never be permitted,"Justice Adams said in his judgement.
"Their creation would constitute crimes at the very highest end of the criminal calendar."
Alan John McEwan had been convicted in the Parramatta Local Court of possessing child pornography and of using a carriage service to access child pornography material, the latter of which has a maximum penalty of 10 years' jail.
The male figures in the cartoons had what appeared to be human genitalia, as did the mother and the girl depicted in the cartoons.
The magistrate had said that had the images involved real children, McEwan would have been jailed.
However, he was fined A$3000 and required to enter into a two-year good behaviour bond in respect to each of the charges.
McEwan appealed the decision arguing that fictional cartoon characters could not be considered people as they "plainly and deliberately" departed from the human form.
But Justice Adams agreed with the magistrate, finding that while The Simpsons characters had hands with four fingers and their faces were "markedly and deliberately different to those of any possible human being", the mere fact that they were not realistic representations of human beings did not mean that they could not be considered people.
Justice Adams said the purpose of the legislation was to stop sexual exploitation and child abuse where images are depicted of "real" children.
However it was also to deter the production of other material, including cartoons, that could "fuel demand for material that does involve the abuse of children".
He dismissed the appeal and ordered each party to pay its own costs as it was "the first case dealing with (this) difficult issue."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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