WASHINGTON (AP) — Victims of child pornography would be allowed to recover greater damages from those who produce, distribute or possess pornographic images of them if legislation passed by the Senate becomes law.
The 98-0 vote on Wednesday is in response to a Supreme Court decision last year in which the court held that a defendant only would have to pay damages consistent with the relative harm caused by their actions. That made it difficult for victims to recover the full damages they were owed.
The legislation establishes a minimum amount for damages for various child pornography offenses, and makes any single person responsible for the full damages from child pornography crimes that involve multiple perpetrators. It also broadens the definition of a victim's losses to include things such as medical services, lost income and therapy.
"This bill ensures that victims can be fully compensated for these heinous crimes, and can focus their attention on healing," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
The measure was named after "Amy" and "Vicky," who were the victims in one of the most widely distributed series of child pornography. The 2014 Supreme Court decision found that Amy could not win the $3.4 million she was seeking from a man who possessed pornographic images of her being abused by an uncle when she was 8 years old.
The legislation, expected to easily clear the House, sets up a system to provide restitution to victims of child pornography, depending on the circumstances of the case. In the case of multiple defendants, a judge could require a defendant to pay full restitution or, if less than the full amount, a minimum of $250,000 for producing the pornography, $150,000 for distribution, or $25,000 for possessing it.
"In the wake of the Supreme Court decision ... the victims of child pornography were placed in an unfair and tragic predicament: the more photos and offenders there are in a given place, the more difficult it is for the victim to recover from the trauma and to seek damages," said the bill's co-author, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "Victims of child pornography experience significant trauma, our laws shouldn't add to that pain by making it more difficult to get the restitution that they deserve."