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Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Networks and Child Pornography: Possession or Dissemination? Charging Decisions and Other Issues

NCJ Number
The Prosecutor Volume: 45 Issue: 3 Dated: July/August/September 2011 Pages: 38-40,42
Justin Fitzsimmons, Atty
Date Published
4 pages
This article evaluates the application of dissemination charges when a defendant uses a peer-to-peer file sharing network to obtain child pornography.
Any prosecutor analyzing an investigation involving the use of a peer-to-peer network should take steps to determine the appropriate charges to file against a defendant. That review must involve comparing the available evidence to the elements for the crimes of distribution and dissemination of child pornography. Each prosecutor should speak with the investigator or computer forensic examiner to determine whether sufficient evidence exists of the defendant's knowledge of how a peer-to-peer file sharing network works. The computer forensic examination should be reviewed for specific key words and data demonstrating intent to access child pornography. A prosecutor should review the defendant's statement to determine what evidence of that knowledge is present. This includes specific knowledge of the defendant's computer usage, whether the defendant installed the software program, whether the defendant changed any of the default settings, and whether the defendant admitted to understanding that the peer-to-peer network is based on the file sharing; if this evidence is present elevated charges may be appropriate. 44 references