Internet crimes and child pornography file sharing
Over the past few years in Pittsburgh, I’ve represented a number of people, in both federal and state court, who were charged internet crimes associated with distribution of images of child pornography and/or of Images of child pornography resulting from utilization of a person to person (P2P) program configured to share digital files through the internet. Inevitably, the client tells me he was originally sharing music or videos on open source public P2P file- sharing networks such as LimeWire, Ares, Gnutella, eDonkey2000, and BitTorrent. Invariably, the client tells me that he was initially curious about and downloaded still images or movie files of adult pornography without realizing the downloads contained child pornography (CP) attachments that might contain thousands of images. Typical child pornography viewers sits alone at his computer and look images of child pornography for sexual gratification, but without involvement of a "real-time" victim. In some cases, the client is naive and mistakenly believes that if the images are available on the internet, then it must be legal to download and possess them. In the vast majority of cases, however, the client instinctively knows that what he or she is doing is illegal, but is seduced by what he or she perceives to be the anonymity of the internet. In other words, he or she does not believe anyone would have the interest or capacity to monitor what he is doing in the privacy of his home. The key to successful child porn distribution prosecutions is the creation of a person to person program configured to share files and leaving a designated file open, so that its images of child porn can be shared with other like-minded individuals. Although many of my clients claim to have been pure downloaders, having no intention of sharing images of child pornography, the fact that a designated file is left open to share its child porn images with other individuals meets the definition of distribution. What my clients failed to understand is that opening their designated file in order to download CP shared from another computer, also provided an "opportunity" for others to share in the contents of the designated file. Consequently, if others took advantage of the opportunity to share those CP images, a distribution took place. Tragically, a first-time conviction for Distribution of Images of Child Pornography in federal courts has a mandatory minimum sentence of 5-years imprisonment, and a maximum sentence of 20 years of imprisonment.