This is how you become a criminal in Wisconsin: put a picture of a naked baby on a greeting card and try selling it on Etsy.
There. Wasn't that easy?
You just committed a felony.
Leonardo DaVinci would be a criminal in contemporary Wisconsin, if he really did paint the Madonna Litta and got a bit o' cash for it. It's got a nude baby, after all.
And hey, Wisconsin parents? Until this year, you could take that adorable naked-butt pic of your kid and submit it to a modeling agency if you hoped to get a contract, but now that would make you a felon.
That's because Wisconsin's anti-pornography law prohibits not only porn, but any "intimate representation" -- including nudity -- of a child used for commercial gain. Parents used to be exempt from some of the prohibitions, but are no more, thanks to revisions that took effect last month. Violation of the law is a class I felony, punishable by fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 3 years and 6 months, or both.
The law, said University of Wisconsin Law Professor Howard Schweber, a First Amendment expert, "is pretty broad. It would include artists who paint or photograph children bathing, for example, if there is an expectation that the artwork will eventually be offered for sale."
Imagine getting busted for selling a portrait of a nude baby. Maybe it is art to most of the world, but pornography to the local district attorney, (who apparently never has Googled "newborn photography"). You could go to prison, or maybe you will be acquitted. Then public records will simply show that you were accused, but not convicted, of violating child pornography laws. Think that's not a life-changer?
It is OK if parents give away cute naked-butt pictures of their kids, but speech is a little less free if there is any sort of compensation involved. The law prohibits anyone, including parents, from capturing, possessing, making, distributing, or exhibiting a representation depicting the child...for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, humiliation, degradation, or monetary or commercial gain." (Emphasis added)
Never thought the Republican-dominated State Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker would automatically equate pornography with capitalism. Will wonders never cease.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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