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Supremes dubious of challenge to child porn law

Is a law designed to stop online child pornography so broad that it infringes on the First Amendment? That's the argument the Supreme Court heard today.

Is a law designed to stop online child pornography so broad that it infringes on the First Amendment? That's the argument the Supreme Court heard today. The appellant is one Michael Williams, who was busted for offering to trade kiddie images with a federal agent. Williams argues that the federal law -- which makes it a crime to promote, distribute or solicit material in a way intended to cause others to believe it contains child pornography -- is unconstitutional because it could be applied to the marketers of such films as "Lolita" and "American Beauty."

According to a Reuters report on oral arguments, the justices didn't seem to be buying. Both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Stephen Breyer seemed to side with Solicitor General Paul Clement, who told the court:

"If you're taking a movie like 'Traffic' or 'American Beauty', which is not child pornography, and you're simply truthfully promoting it, you have nothing to worry about with this statute," Clement told the justices.

Williams' lawyer, Richard Diaz argued the law punished "thought, beliefs, expressions and opinions" He said someone could be convicted if they cited one of the films like Lolita and said it contained "hot graphic teen sex."

"Your client ... didn't produce Lolita," Roberts said. ... Justice Stephen Breyer cited the movies "American Beauty" and "Traffic" and noted Clement's position. "I don't see under his interpretation how anyone could conceivably be prosecuted," Breyer said.

The current law is the second go-round. Congress previously passed a law included computer-generated images that depicted minors having sex. That law was struck down by the Supreme Court.