Recent decades have seen increased national and international efforts to prosecute child pornography offenses. This increasing criminalization has been given greater urgency by the advent of digital technology, which allows offenders to produce and distribute such material with relative ease and anonymity. The interconnected nature of the Internet means that this is a global problem, and many jurisdictions have moved to strengthen their laws to punish each link in the chain, from production and distribution to possession. Central to these offenses is the definition of ‘child’. While internationally ‘child’ is generally defined as a person under the age of eighteen, the age of consent to sexual activity varies considerably between jurisdictions.
This article considers the legal consequences of defining ‘child’ for the purposes of child pornography law as being higher than the age of consent. Drawing upon the laws of Australia, Canada, England, Wales, and the U.S.; it begins with a discussion of the increasing criminalization of child pornography. The rationales behind the criminalization of child pornography will then be discussed, with a critical analysis of their application to images of minors over the age of consent, as well as adults who ‘appear to be’ under eighteen. Two options for reform are then proposed and discussed.