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Child pornography in the United Kingdom is covered by the Protection of Children Act 1978, which makes it illegal to take, make, distribute, show or possess an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of someone under the age of 18. In the context of digital media, saving an indecent image to a computer's hard drive is considered to be "making" the image, as it causes a copy to exist which did not exist before.[1] Indecency is to be interpreted by a jury, who should apply the recognised standards of propriety. This law is in force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; similar provisions exist in Scotland but the PoCA does not extend to there.

The prohibition of content on the Internet that is potentially illegal under this law by British internet service providers is however self-regulatory, coordinated by the non-profit charity Internet Watch Foundation (who has partnerships with many major ISPs in the country).

The 1978 Act was extended in 1994 (by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) to cover "pseudo-photographs" - images that appear to be photographs. In 2008 the Act was further extended (by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008) to cover tracings, and other works derived from photographs or pseudo-photographs. In 2009 all sexual images depicting under 18s, not just those that were derived from photographs or pseudo-photographs, were criminalised by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.


  1., Internet Watch Foundation - R v Bowden
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