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back to article Brooke Shields pic exposes real/online rift

Police advice to the Tate Modern Art Gallery, that one of the pictures in their current "Pop Life" exhibition may be child porn, and therefore illegal to display, highlights yet again the difficulty of policing this sort of material in an internet age. The picture in question is Spiritual America, by reputable photographer …

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Anonymous Coward

the law

is, always has been, and always will be, bullshit.

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Bronze badge

Who possesses it currently?

Yes, we know that enforcing laws in meatspace works differently to in cyberspace, but more importantly, why weren't the people in possession of the photo charged? That is what the law demands.

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Van Halen - Balance

Would the Van Halen Album cover for Balance be an issue. If so where do we stop?

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Alert

You gotta wonder about censors' motives

When a person sees a picture of a child and proclaims that some people will find it sexually arousing, it says more about that person making the proclamation than it does other people.

There is no doubt that if a normal, healthy, well-adjusted adult sees a child naked that is all they see: a naked child. When people react with disgust to the thought of naked children then there really is something going wrong with the thought processes in their head.

I'd bet that they see the nakedness, and are intrigued themselves, maybe even titillated, and they hate this reaction so express disgust. Disgust that is aimed at their own feelings.

And these are the exact people that drive these stupid policies and organisations like the IWF.

One more thing - when the IWF does its censorship they use proxies to send fake 404 messages to users. Therefore, if you are on an ISP who is a member of the IWF and you see a 404 on any website, it may be your ISP messing with the site rather than a missing file on the server. So call up your ISP and confirm if the 404 is real or fake, and waste the time and money of these censors.

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WTF?

Must be missing part of the article

John,

I do not understand the REAL?ONLINE RIFT comment, nor the part "This conflict of means and objectives does, nonetheless, serve to highlight a continuing tension in the law, that is likely to prevail as long as individuals are subject to prosecution for possession of certain images, irrespective of intent."

Are you saying that this photo is 'art' and thus should be allowable? Or are you suggesting that the current law is wrong and if so in what way?

I'm quite puzzled by this article.

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WTF?

Double Standards

So if the law states that mere possession of the electronic version of the picture is an offence then how can possession of a physical representation not carry the same weight of the law? The police visited the Tate and advised them not to display the picture. They did not, apparently, advice them to destroy the image or confiscate it.

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Protection of children

Firstly let me state clearly that I don't agree with child porn or child exploitation in any way.

That said, as Ms Sheilds is currently over 40 years old (i.e. not a child), and also a figure who intentionally puts themselves in the public eye to make money, and also probably herself is allowing this to be shown, what child are we actually protecting here by banning this art under the child protection act?

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Happy

How does the old saying go?

If it's blurred, it's art. If it's in focus, it's porn.

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WTF?

I will give the modern artists their art but...

...this cannot be art. Its just glorified kiddie porn.

I don't really like modern art but it doesn't mean it can't exist as other people like it. But this is just not art, if it was on the internet it would be indecent (as article says) so why should it be any different just because it is in an exhibition.

I know its probably only one picture but it seems sensible to remove.

As for the US showing it...thats just classic of their standing on many things.

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FAIL

Pathetic.

It's OK, the police are here to make sure galleries do not "cause any offence to their visitors".

Gosh, because I really wouldn't want an art gallery to challenge my sensibilities would I.

----

The original photo, taken by her mother, who later manages to manufacture stardom for her child is a sorry portrait of contemporary society. In the typical viewer, the piece illicits sadness and disgust, even more so when you realise that this must have been one of the many steps to fame.

But let's ban it anyway, in case the paedos hear about it. Oh wait, they already have.

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WTF?

Now there's a question...

Is the picture in question by any chance the shot of Ms Shields, as Violet -- a girl growing up in a New Orleans brothel around 1920 - 1920 -- in the Louis Malle film"Pretty Baby" (1976)?

I seem to recall her being served up on a silver platter for the client who's getting her first time.

Interestingly, if so, the film is certified "18" in the UK.

Thus it would seem that anyone over 18 can see the film, but not possess a copy of it.

See the icon at left for my opinion if this in fact the case...

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WTF?

Sad reflection on society

I had never heard of this picture, and of course the first thing I did was google it to see what the fuss is about.

The picture itself shows nothing that virtually every under ten year old child in Europe doesn't display on a beach every summer (ie no genitals are visible)

Its a sad reflection on our society when we are now retrospectively censoring art. Where will this stop? Ruben's paintings in the national gallery getting little fig leaves added? Greek and roman statues being given pants to wear?

These people should go out and get a life, This is not a problem in the more liberated rest of Europe, where icidently they have lower levels of sex related crimes.

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Big Brother

Country's gone stark raving mad...

I'm retired now, and the temptation to emigrate to some other country becomes greater every year.

For the last few years I've watched this country go totally bonkers. If it all wasn't so dangerous it would actually be funny. Vested and corrupt interests control our lives more thoroughly than Big Brother might ever have hoped for, and a compliant Mr Plod - bereft these days of a glimmer of common sense - makes criminals of ordinary citizens. 'Public servants' tell ME what to do rather than the other way around - I've given up voting as it counts for nothing.

Frankly I'm actually glad I'm not young any more - my heart goes out to a new generation trying to make sense of a society taken over by madmen. Everyone has lost the plot - including me, increasingly...

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FAIL

Think of the children

I am.....

Oh, I see the problem.

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Black Helicopters

Child Porn

The Icon used is a picture of a nude child provocativly posed lying on a wite sledge in a blizard with a black helicopter in the forground. The occupents of the helicopter are intent on aresting the photographer rather than resquing the child from incipiant hyperthemia.

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Anonymous Coward

@ GeorgeTuk

"As for the US showing it...thats just classic of their standing on many things." - You mean, a far more sensible sanding?

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Toast

If I cooked a bit of toast and by some miracle an image of a naked child should appear on it, would I go to jail mummy?

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Anonymous Coward

the Met - judge, jury, and (literally) executioner

"to ensure that they do not inadvertently break the law or cause any offence to their visitors".

Does the name Ian Tomlinson mean anything to these people? Is a picture of his dying moments following unprovoked assault from a Met officer (as with many others, illegally not wearing any ID, but none have been disciplined or charged) likely to be considered 'likely to cause offence'? 'Cos I find the folks in the Met offensive, but then I'm not a Met officer so I don't get to enforce my views.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6838803.ece

J C de Menezes etc too. Too many to list. The Met want the same treatment as the RUC, they're about as out of control.

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When in doubt, go with the 'classics.'

Fig leaves for everyone!

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FAIL

THAT's a sad state of affairs...

When we are reduced to even discuss if some child nude is porn. It should be obvious! Does anyone here think twice about an adult picture - to know if ti is, or isn't, pornographic? Or are we deciding that NUDE is porn by itself?

Much worse, in my opinion, it's that famous picture from Vietnam. That one, with the burned girl running and screaming. How can anyone complain about the Brooke Shield's picture and accept that one to be published worldwide?

Just to clarify: I believe BOTH should be allowed. I did NOT got aroused by the Sield's picture - and the Vietnam one is good to remember us the horrors of war.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Unhappy

Porn vs Art

Just like the furore surrounding Lady Chatterly's Lover only kicked off when the paperback (read plabs) edition was published, this issue only occurs when the so-called child porn is exposed to the gaze of the unwashed masses.

If this picture of Brooke Shields is porn then we'd best burn all of Jock Sturges work, as much of it includes small children in little or no clothing

http://images.google.co.uk/images?hl=en&source=hp&q=jock+sturges+and+david+hamilton&gbv=2&aq=2&oq=Jock+Sturges (definitely NSFW)

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Anonymous Coward

That is not art

That's not art. If that was really taken when she was 10, what were her parents thinking?

It shouldn't be displayed. And yes, I'm a parent.

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Taken during a movie shoot?

About 25 years ago, I was watching a rented video titled "Pretty Baby" starring Ms. Shields. Near the end was a brief (maybe 5 second) scene exactly matching the description of this picture. It struck me as gratuitous at the time, not really essential to the story being told. I wonder if that's where the picture was taken.

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Problem is Broken Law

This is why looking at pictures, no matter how objectionable one may find the subject matter, should not be criminalised.

If a child actually was abused in the making of the picture, then fair enough: go and prosecute the person who abused the child. And if the person who looks at the picture goes on actually to abuse a child, then again fair enough: go and prosecute the person who abused the child.

But mediæval superstition notwithstanding, the subject of a picture does not somehow become further abused everytime some other person looks at that picture. And given how many people see pictures of sports cars and don't go on to break speed limits, I think it's unlikely that one peek at an image of a child is going to turn anyone into a nonce. Most people who did cop an eyeful wouldn't admit to it anyway unless they were already in real trouble (say, on suspicion of actually abusing a child) and there was no plausible way to deny it.

Anyway, if some sicko is going to get his filthy little rocks off, frankly I'd rather he did so into a box of Kleenex.

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FAIL

It's OK if you're a gallery?

If the gallery deliberately imports this picture, the police will "work with gallery management to ensure that they do not inadvertently break the law"

If an individual inadvertently views this picture on the internet and immediately closes that page, but it is later found in their cache, the police will destroy that person's life.

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FAIL

More proof (as if it were needed)...

... that the law of possession is an ass - something that should surely be obvious to anyone with the ability to think rationally . Simply possessing an image such as this should not lead to someone being branded a pervert or guiltly of an unprovable thought crime regardless of what irrational, emotional muppets think.

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Boffin

There IS no rift!

John, I don't believe there is a rift here.

Possession of indecent images of children, in whatever form, be it electronic or print, is a criminal offence.

As far as I'm aware, this is a "strict liability" offence, meaning outside of a very few well-defined statutory defences possession is a crime.

I don't believe artistic merit is a defence, therefore if the police advised it to be removed from display they should also have arrested and charged the owner or keeper of the work and left the rest to the courts.

No rift - it's either illegal, in which case you can't own or view it via the internet or in print.

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Anonymous Coward

@Neil Cooper

It should be noted that Ms Shields does not condone the use of this picture. In fact, for some years she has been trying (and failing) to regain the rights and ownership of the original, in order to suppress or discourage its use.

This is nothing to do with the legality or not of the image, but she does not support it being shown.

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Big Brother

Blue Lagoon

By the same token, and staying with Ms Shields, I would expect anyone in possession of a copy of "The Blue Lagoon" to be wary of plod, as well.

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@Ben Morgan

Indeed. It surely - at minimum - requires them to take it away until such time as it is deemed legal or illegal.

Though what the police's role in helping to spare anyone from "causing offence" is unclear - I see hopeful signs there... maybe Mr Plod will intervene to stop e.g. Home Secretary, PM, etc. from causing offence with stupid policies...

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Anonymous Coward

The problem is the ambigiuty

The problem here is not whether the picture is illegal or not, but that the law is sufficiently ambiguous to make innocent people appear criminals.

What if I had a photography of myself naked as a toddler? As a 50-year-old adult, I can state that no abuse was involved, and I don't give a fig who sees it, nor what they do with it. But the law is so ambiguous that I can (a) be arrested (b) labelled a paedophile (even though its a photo of myself!) (c) lose my job and my house (d) Be stigmatised with the labels for the rest of my life.

No law should do that to its citizens. For the ignoramuses reading this, no, I'm not saying you remove the law, I'm saying that you are more clear and logical in its implementation.

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Anonymous Coward

OMG, I've seen a naked child!

You'll have to come and arrest me. Shit, and my wife. And my parents. Oh, and my Doctor (always thought he was a pervert, he's been far too intimate with my wife).

Little known fact: there is a way you can always spot a peadophile! It's when someone looks at a picture of a naked child and says, "That's disgusting, we must ban it!" Ask yourself, "What are they thinking?"

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FAIL

Ah... Just reread the article...

The photo is, in fact, NOT from the movie "Pretty Baby"... Which doesn't change the point that a movie with a scene of a pre-pubescent Ms Shields being served up naked (or at, most, in lingerie) at a brothel appears to be legal to view, but not to own.

"Fail" for my original misreading of the source of the photo.

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how soon till....

How many classic art are now going to be destroyed because they feature nake paintings of children and child like cherbs and such?

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Anonymous Coward

Risky in the UK

The photo was not taken by Brooke Shields' mother - it was one of a series taken by a photographer named Garry Gross. Brooke Shields' mother was paid $450 by Playboy Press for a series of such photos by Gross. Brooke Shields later tried to prevent further publication of the photos when she was 16 via court action but failed.

The "art" in question was a photograph of Gross's original photograph, taken and reworked by Richard Prince, who then presents it as his art.

I'm not in the UK and have seen the photos in question: If you had such photos of a 10 year old girl in the UK, you would likely be arrested.

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FAIL

too late...

if you type "brooke shields" into google, its the second-to-top suggestion.

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The Point (@ AC 15.37)

I though there might be some question around what i was getting at. I do actually think that this picture breaches the law. Whether the law should be precisely as it is is another matter. First, and i wasn't particulary having a go at the Met or the IWF, this incident does point up a real/online rift simply becuase it is much easier to police and control a single image in a gallery than multiple images on the international web. That is a fact of life but undoubtebly it leads some pedants to question law.

In respect of the law itself I'm always slightly queasy about the introduction of the principle of strict liability to such a serious matter. Of course a requirement to prove intent in respect of such material would cause some difficulties in some cases but to be honest almost only in the most marginal cases. If you talk to forensic experts or if you look at charge sheets you tend to find that the true paedophile does not restrict their interest to a handful of level one images but tends to collect avidly across the range.

The grey area opened up by the ability to prosecute soley on level1 images without need to demonstrate intent may actually contribute to a weakening of public support for the law in this area and is therefore counter productive.

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Coat

Crown Prosecution Service

I read that as "Clown Prosecution Service." I'm guessing I'm not the first one.

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The Rift

I don't think it's a rift between online and offline so much as a rift between what people think the law is about, and what the law actually says.

First of all, there is the claimed purpose of protecting children, but it doesn't take a genius to see the law is way off the mark if that is goal.

I think what most people really want is to outlaw paedophilia. That is, make it a crime to have sexual thoughts about children. But for both practical and ethical reasons, the law can't actually do that.

So, instead they just outlaw pictures a paedophile might enjoy looking at, and everybody pretends they outlawed paedophilia instead.

The net result is that sometimes the law is enforced as people think it is, and someone can be convicted or totally ignored based only on whether they seem like a peado or not, and other times, it's enforced as actually written and everyone is shocked to discover that a naked toddler in the bathtub could be considered illegal.

I'm not sure which is worse.

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Big Brother

Blind Faith

Time to arrest all the elderly hippies with a copy of the Blind Faith LP. Partly just for being elderly hippies, but also because of the cover image (as seen at Amazon, for any youngsters who don't remember all this).

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Ms. Shields' Feelings

Quite frankly, the subjects feelings are what matter most. If she were happy for the work to be displayed, and just considered it just "something that she did" when she was ten, then it should probably be allowed. (That said, I haven't seen it and whilst pictures of naked children are not inherently pornographic, this one - posed provocatively and made up - does sound v. bad). Still, a ten year old child can't give informed consent and if Ms. Shields says the photograph is against her wishes then that should be an end to it - get rid of the picture.

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Anonymous Coward

a requirement to prove intent

"a requirement to prove intent in respect of such material would cause some difficulties in some cases but to be honest almost only in the most marginal cases"

What are we talking about here? Intent to masturbate? Intent to commit a thought crime? Do you honestly think that replacing "strict liability" by some kind of intent to commit a thought crime would improve things?

No, just get rid of the stupid law!

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Stop

Surely...

Any law that can be broken 'inadvertently' is a bad law.

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FAIL

@Neil Cooper

The law, right or wrong, applies to all images no matter how old as the intention, missplaced or not, is to prevent any being possessed and thus remove the motivation for the creation of new ones and so theoretically protecting children.

There may be some logic in this but .......

as recent case shows - BIG FAIL

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Stop

@That is not art

"That's not art. If that was really taken when she was 10, what were her parents thinking?"

Answer - $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

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Alert

Ah, but *is* it indecent?

"I don't believe artistic merit is a defence"

Ah, but it may come into play when deciding if the image is "indecent". I dont' think it's as clear cut as John. I've seen the image too and it's absolutely true that this looks to pop out of the top of the the Level 1 at first consideration; she's naked, though artfully posed, she's made up and pouting - it's absolutely a sexualised look for a ten year old girl; but on the other hand, this is what the artist was intending to show - that the gaze can be warped with a pout and lick of paint, that you can see "wantonness" where there is none.

maybe.

Now, if the image has a purpose *beyond* itself - and that's pretty much a definition of art - does it remain "indecent"? Doesn't it perhaps matter which eye falls on it? Doesn't it perhaps matter, what you are thinking?

I'd say it does - and that's why the law, and those who enforce it, are asses. Confine illegality to *real* images of *real* child abuse, and you remove all grey areas - focus on "indecency" and this absurdity will never end. For instance, what about *paintings*? Oh boy....

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Anonymous Coward

Duke

Perhaps the Duke of York might shed some light on the matter, after all didn't he have a 'fling' with Ms Shields, a point which seems to have been, erm, overlooked this week, can't imagine why.

Oh wait ....

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Bronze badge

Seen it, but watch out!

There's absolutely nothing that would make me 'randy', etc. No genitalia visible. Can't understand it. Just a non-revealing photo of a pretty girl. Art.*

BUT, if you google for the picture, some returned sites have hijacked it to the "Warning - your computer is infected" shit. Obviously, pressing the (in my case) Peruuta - close - button runs the scam anyway. Amazingly, even killing it in a second amazingly reported 200+ infections. Astounding!! Now, Microsoft needs to write code that efficient. If they had, Vista would've succeeded.

(Pub computer, natch. Mine runs Linux).

* Oh, if the plods removed it is in their wank^W tea room now?

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No-win for the IWF

The fact the IWF can end up in such no-win situations is evidence enough that the existence of the IWF is in fact pointless and a waste of time.

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