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Child Pornography and the Right to Privacy

NCJ Number
Florida Law Review Volume: 43 Issue: 2 Dated: (April 1991) Pages: 347-404
J Quigley
Date Published
58 pages

This article examines the relationship between the right to privacy and State statutes prohibiting child pornography through an analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Osborne v. Ohio.


In that decision, the court upheld an Ohio law prohibiting the in-home possession of child pornography for personal use. The evidence against Osborne was obtained through a search of his private library; previously an individual had the right to possess any communicative material in his home for personal use. The court broadened the definition of child pornography by permitting the States to regulate a wider range of written materials. Thus, the Osborne ruling significantly eroded the first and fourth amendment rights to free speech and privacy. These rights were limited because of the State's overriding interest in eliminating the use of children in pornographic materials. In Osborne, the court balanced the nature of the harm done to children against the effectiveness of a ban on private possession as a means of curbing the pornographic film industry. The author notes that the court's decision in Osborne places the U.S. below the level of privacy protection accepted at the international level and maintains that the scope of the court's exception to the first and fourth amendments may be difficult to confine. 415 notes