It's the Principle of the Thing!
For me, it's the principles that are important. And I see that John Ozimek is mindful of the question of underlying principles with how he finishes his fine article:-
"On the whole, therefore, the worst fears have not been realised. On the other hand, once a principle is breached, government has a habit of returning to ask for more – and so it has been with the principle of possession. Last year, government legislated on possession again, this time making it an offence to possess a cartoon that depicted illicit acts with children.
Concerns remain that as each "loophole" gets plugged, government is all too ready to move on to the next, widening the net of censorship further and further."
On the matter of "loopholes" (I remember when loopholes were real loopholes, not the pretend "loopholes" they have these days), I have exactly the concern that Ozimek describes here.
Reality is not neat and tidy. As we legislate over it, it's like we're laying down crazy paving - the ever advancing edge remains untidy, with gaps at the edge that legislators feel compelled to fill with yet more slabs. And so the edge continues to advance, with new gaps appearing at the newly established edge.
We can see this with the cartoon porn law. The Protection of Children Act 1978 was originally supposed to protect children from abuse, since the production and distribution of indecent photographs of them was itself abusive. But the edge appeared untidy, since pseudophotographs were not illegal. Concerned that those in possession of real photographs might claim them to be pseudophotographs, and therefore get around the law, the possession of pseudophotographs was criminalised. But then there was concern that photographs and pseudophotographs could be somehow transformed and disguised, such as by tracing them to turn them into drawings. And so the law was extended to cover such derived images as well. And now we have the cartoon porn law, which seeks to cover images that aren't derived, no matter how obvious it is that the images were never real.
As I understand it, there's no defence for possession of an indecent pseudophotograph on the grounds that it can be shown to be a pseudophotograph rather than a real photograph. This extension of the law doesn't simply fill a perceived gap, but actually extends the law beyond where it was originally intended to reach. The cartoon porn law is a much more obvious example of this, since it's explicitly about images that aren't indecent photographs or pseudophotographs.
While the legislation becomes increasingly further removed from the original purpose of protecting real children from real abuse (the link with real abuse is extremely tenuous, if it exists at all, in the case of the cartoon porn law), there's a subtle but significant change in important, underlying principles.
We no longer live in a society in which we are free, in private, to privately express to ourselves, on paper, whatever it is we might happen to think, to imagine. Instead, the State now claims that what we privately express to ourselves on paper is the business of the State. The State believes it rightly has the authority to decide and dictate what kinds of thoughts and ideas we may privately put down on paper.
There's no guarantee that this deep shift in principle will be limited to just undesirable images of people or animals.
With that fundamental shift in principle, we are all now far less free than we recently were.