Photo Labs Part of Fight Against Child Porn?

ByABC News
August 13, 2001, 6:40 PM

Aug. 13 -- Have you ever taken a snapshot of your child or grandchild playing in the bathtub or frolicking in the backyard sprinkler with no clothes on?

Much to the dismay of many shutterbugs, some employees at photo processing labs inspect customers' photos, and if they decide the pictures resemble child pornography, in some states they are required to alert the police. The consequences for the customer are often dire.

False Accusation

Marian Rubin is a 66-year-old award-winning photographer. Last year, she took a roll of film of her granddaughters before they got in their bath. One of the photos depicted one of the girls lying on a bed naked while reading a book.

Rubin did not think there was anything unusual about her pictures, but an employee of the one-hour photo lab processing her film deemed Rubin's granddaughter's pose provocative, and she called the police. Authorities arrested Rubin when she picked up her pictures.

"I must have cried buckets," says Rubin. "To be charged with this kind of crime is despicable. It's a disgusting crime."

Looking for kiddie porn, police searched her apartment and confiscated most of her artwork and her computers.

Rubin spent the next year on probation and was suspended from her job as a school social worker during that period. It was also a year before she could get her confiscated property back.

Though charges against her were eventually dismissed, she worries that the effect of the ordeal on her grandchild may be long lasting.

"They asked her things like, 'Did Grammy ask you to spread your legs? Did Grammy ask you to touch yourself?'" Rubin says.

Furthermore, as a condition of her bail, Rubin was unable to see or talk to the girls, a punishment she calls "horrible."

'First Line of Defense'

Former child sex crimes prosecutor Bruce Taylor defends the responsibility of photo clerks to alert authorities, arguing that any photos showing a child's genitals are potentially illegal, and the clerks are helping fight crime by reporting what they feel is offensive.