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File sharing equals distribution in child porn case, appeals court rules

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

MAJOR COURT DECISION : File sharing is the equivalent of distribution, a New Jersey state appeals court has ruled, overturning a local judge’s decision and finding a man who said he absently left kiddie porn images online guilty of trafficking , in what could be considered a landmark case.

By placing the images in a public LimeWire folder, where others could easily access them, Richard Lyons of Budd Lake was “offering” or “providing” — in other words: distributing — them, the appeals judges found. Distribution of child pornography is a serious offense under New Jersey law.

“This is a significant opinion for the prosecution of child pornography offenses, one that recognizes the technological opportunities and realities associated with the activities of those who harm children by sharing these images,” said Lee Moore, a spokesperson for state Attorney General Paula Dow, whose office brought the case to the appeals court.

A New Jersey State Police investigator turned up the file through a simple online search. Armed with a search warrant, State Police found more than two dozen illegal videos at Lyons’s home.

A Morris County Superior Court judge kicked out the resulting offering and distributing indictments after Lyons said he forgot to change his LimeWire settings and didn’t intentionally distribute the files.

But the Appellate Division viewed the circumstances much differently. Judges Joseph Lisa, Susan Reisner and Jack Sabatino said the acts of installing LimeWire, downloading the kiddie porn files and then storing them in a place where others could find and download them equals distribution.

Federal courts have reached similar conclusions, the judges noted — which would get the state Supreme Court’s immediate attention should Lyons appeal the decision.

The Appellate judges made a comparison: “The individual places the child pornographic materials on a display stand on the corner, with a sign stating what they are and that any passerby may take some.”

In doing so, that person is “offering the materials to all who pass by and he is providing them to any takers.”

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