What is distribution of child pornography?

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What is distribution of child pornography?

Distribution of child pornography is a crime that applies to much more than what you might think of as “distribution”. According to section 163.1(3) of the Criminal Code, this crime is committed by any person who transmits, makes available, distributes, sells, advertises, imports, exports, or possesses child pornography for the purpose of doing any of those things.

In other words, even if you have not transmitted, distributed, sold, advertised, imported, exported, or made available any child pornography, you may still be guilty of the crime of distributing child pornography if you had it for the purpose of doing any of those things. In order to be brief, I refer to any of these acts as distributing child pornography.

Knowingly distributing child pornography means two things. First, you knew what the child pornography was. Second, you knowingly or intentionally distributed it.

This does not mean that the crown prosecutor must prove that you knew that the material would meet the Criminal Code definition for child pornography. It means that they must prove that you knew what it was. For example, imagine the following. You and your friend are in a “human sexuality” class together in university, and you missed last week’s lecture. You know that lectures are recorded, so you ask another classmate for the lecture recording. The classmate responds with a link. You believe the link is to the lecture recording – you have no reason to think otherwise. You forward the link to your friend before opening it yourself. You later click the link yourself, and child pornography appears. You immediately close the link, call your friend, and tell him to not open the link. In this hypothetical case, you should not be liable for distributing child pornography, because you did not know that what you were distributing was child pornography.

However, if you knowingly distribute something and you are “willfully blind” as to whether it is child pornography, then that is treated the same as knowingly distributing child pornography. Changing the previous example, imagine that you immediately noticed that the link your classmate sent you had the words “teen sex party” in it. Even though you had asked for a link to a lecture in human sexuality class, this seemed strange to you. You thought that this might be a link to a sketchy website – a child pornography website – and not the lecture recording. However, rather than taking a step to see what the website was, like asking the classmate to confirm they sent you the correct link, or asking another classmate for the lecture recording link, you just forwarded it along to your friend. Perhaps you thought that it is better your friend accidentally goes on the sketchy website than you. Perhaps you just did not want to take the time to check if the link was legitimate. In this case, it does not matter why you sent the link – you were willfully blind as to whether what you were distributing was child pornography, so you are liable for the offence.

Committing any of the four offences under section 163.1 of the Criminal Code constitutes a child pornography crime.