Nightline: Daily E-mail (2/12)

W A S H I N G T O N, Feb. 12, 2001 -- There's a famous quote about pornography. I believe it comes from a Supreme Court justice, but I am probably wrong.

When asked to define pornography, this person said something to the effect of "I can't say what it is, but I know it when I see it." Now a lot of you are probably wondering why we would do a show about pornography at all. Well, a lot of the battles over the First Amendment are fought out on the fringes of expression. We can all agree on most issues of free speech and free expression; it's when you get a little further from the mainstream that people start to argue. And argue vehemently.

Now almost everyone will agree on the issue of child pornography. The laws were written to protect any children from actually being abused. But the law also prohibits any depiction that conveys the impression that a minor is engaged in sex. That's where things get a lot more complicated. What about movies where actors over the age of 18 play high school students and they engage in sex? Go after those, and some of the most popular movies in the last few years are in big trouble. Now, no one really expects that to happen, but it is a slippery slope.

And life is becoming more complicated. Computer graphics are becoming more sophisticated. What if someone creates child pornography, but no child was ever involved? Is that still illegal? And should it be? What do we do with virtual pornography? I'm sure it will come as no surprise that this is all headed towards the Supreme Court to decide. And as you all know, we like messy issues with no easy answers here on Nightline, and this certainly seems to be one of the messiest.

Leroy Sievers is the executive producer of Nightline.