Child erotica, also known as pedophile paraphernalia, refers to any non-nude or semi-nude photographs and videos of children (minors) in sexually suggestive poses, and is also defined as any material relating to children that is used by any individuals for sexual purposes. Child erotica may include in addition to images other materials that may cause sexual arousal in pedophiles, such as children's diaries, drawings, underwear, letters, and other similar items. Law enforcement investigators have found that child erotica is often collected by pedophiles and child sexual abuse offenders. Some child erotica images are distributed over the internet and presented in a fashion similar to non-erotic child modeling. Child erotica images may be considered by some legal systems to be a form of child pornography.
Erotic child modeling websites feature children modeling a variety of clothing types, including dresses, bikinis, nightgowns, or undergarments. Almost all internet child modeling centers around web sites that display model series or portfolios. The sites almost always present children as fashion models for hire. In fact, all of a model's income typically comes from membership subscriptions to the web sites displaying their photos. Subscription prices usually range from US$ 20 to 30 per month. In 2002, the PJCrew site was reported to bring in a net income of US$ 7,000 to 10,000 a month at the time it was shut down. A Little Agency had an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 patrons who paid $22 monthly to view their photos One of their models was paid $17,000 by the agency for three months' work.
Depictions of even a clothed child violate U.S. federal law , , and if they constitute "lascivious" exhibitions of the genitalia or pubic area. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has defined "lascivious" as "tending to excite lust; lewd; indecent; obscene; sexual impurity; tending to deprave the morals in respect to sexual relations."
In the United States, some members of the Congress have proposed prohibiting certain child modeling sites. Some states are considering similar legislation. Opponents of such legislation argue that it would probably be ruled to violate the first amendment to the US constitution.
In July 2001, Wired News published a story about child modeling web sites that described Lil' Amber and Jessi the Kid, which were websites operated by the web hosting company Webe Web Corporation located in Florida. Webe Web was, at the time, the oldest child modeling site service on the Internet.
In November 2001, the NBC television station serving Miami, FL, ran a story entitled "Selling Innocence." A reporter "went undercover" to contact the site operators, and then tracked down Amber (a pseudonym), the model featured in Lil' Amber, at her family's farm in Palm Beach County. The news report prompted Florida Congressman Mark Foley (R-Palm Beach County) to propose legislation banning child modeling web sites.
During the summer of 2004, a Cultural Analysis done at College of the Redwoods of Webe Web's fashion model web site, www.childsupermodels.com and its tributary web sites determined that "the primary focus of the site is to sell monthly memberships", for the purpose of entertainment provided by "little girls in sexually provocative attire and poses". It described the business model as "a product of the Dot-Com Boom that survived the Dot-Com Bust", and contrasted it sharply with a legitimate web site featuring child models.
The analysis explored possible motivations behind the behavior of Webe Web, the child models, their parents, and the subscribers, and determined that the target audience was primarily adults with "sexual orientations toward under-aged girls". It suggested that being exposed to the site's content could impact fashions worn by girls, expectations of boys toward girls, and the attitudes of adults toward children.
It also describes challenges faced by attempts to prosecute publishers of child erotica due to the necessity of proving that the provocative exhibition of a child's body was knowingly lascivious, meaning that the display was choreographed either by an adult or by a child who understood the lascivious significance of her exhibition, and questioned whether it would then be appropriate to convict the child. It noted the legislation proposed by representatives Mark Foley and Nick Lampson, but calls the legislation "misguided", and concluded that as a result of it failing, "the popular culture of childhood is continuing to endanger the very people who should enjoy it the most, for the sake of entertaining those who shouldn’t."
On November 28, 2006, criminal charges were laid against the owners of Webe Web Corporation. Immediately, all Webe Web child model sites went offline. Jeff Pierson pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and mailing, transporting or shipping child pornography, while the owners of the web hosting company, Marc Evan Greenberg and Jeff Libman, pleaded not guilty.
Many of the parents claimed to be unaware of the images being taken of their children, and some had signed over temporary legal custody of their child to Pierson during the modeling session.
Libman was indicted by a grand jury in the Southern District of Florida on April 28, 2009, for receiving, possessing and distributing child pornography. In his plea agreement, Libman admitted he received images that depict prepubescent children and children engaged in sadistic or masochistic conduct. At his sentencing, which is scheduled for Nov. 13, 2009, Libman faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison.
Libman was first identified by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the FBI during an investigation of Webe Web Corp., a Florida-based company. According to court documents, USPIS and FBI agents seized large volumes of computer media during the execution of a search warrant at Libman’s residence in Fort Lauderdale.
Libman, Marc Evan Greenberg and Webe Web Corporation were indicted in November 2006 in a separate case in the Northern District of Alabama for conspiracy to produce images of child pornography and transportation of images of child pornography.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Chief Alexandra R. Gelber and Trial Attorney Elizabeth M. Yusi of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Marie Villafaña of the Southern District of Florida. The case is being investigated by USPIS, the FBI and CEOS’ High Tech Investigative Unit.
Mr. Libman pleaded guilty in Miami to one count of receiving child pornography in September 2009.
In early 2006 the operators of the child modeling agencies "A Little Agency" and "The VMS," (Matthew Duhamel) were arrested on charges of child pornography. Neither A Little Agency nor the VMS distributed nude photographs. However, federal prosecutors argued that they still contained "lascivious exhibitions" of the genitalia based on the six part Dost test.
Federal prosecutors claimed the Web sites dealt in images of girls as young as 9 wearing scant clothing in suggestive poses. One photo reportedly shows a 9-year-old girl in "black stiletto pumps, a black lace thong, black bra, and a black jacket" sitting on a dining room table, according to court records.
The operators were indicted on transportion of child pornography, possession of child pornography and receipt of child pornography. Attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the charges against them arguing that the pictures of young girls in suggestive poses on the websites they operated did not rise to the level of pornography. However, the judge assigned to the case, Chief Judge Campbell, denied the motion to dismiss, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has determined fully clothed pictures can be considered pornographic.
Duhamel was convicted after a bench trial of charges of transporting, receiving and possessing child pornography. Another defendant pleaded guilty to one count of transportation of child pornography as part of a plea bargain. Both were sentenced to five years in federal prison.
Information obtained during the investigation led to the arrest of the parents of some of the models as well as the operators of other child modelling websites.
The Japanese Law Banning Child Prostitution and Pornography, enacted in 1999, defines child pornography as any image of a child under 18 years old "naked or partially naked, which is sexually stimulating."
In Japan, DVDs and photo books of scantly clothed children, commonly known as Junior Idols, are sold right next to hard-core pornography. Reports suggest that more than 3 million such photo books were sold in 2006 alone.
The Publishers Ethics Committee of the Japan Magazine Publishers' Association checks bookstores for inappropriate publications and has issued warnings to publishers of pornographic manga (books). However, committee members have said it is not easy to determine when an image crosses the line from art to child pornography.