Support Masha’s Law

Please write, call, and email your senators and representatives to ask that they add their support as co-sponsors of these identical bills in the House and Senate. LINK To find your Congressional representatives by name, state or zipcode. S. 2155 and HR 4703 are companion bills. S. 2155 is the Senate bill and HR 4703. These bills are identical to each other and both need our support Quote: Official Title: A bill to provide meaningful civil remedies for victims of the sexual exploitation of children. Quote: Status:Dec 20, 2005 Introduced (By Sen. John Kerry [D-MA]) This bill is in the first step in the legislative process. Introduced Senate bills go first to Senate committees that consider whether the bill should be presented to the Senate as a whole. The majority of bills never make it out of committee. Quote: Congressional Record STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS The United States Senate Dec 20, 2005 Section 38 Official Record: Thomas (see section 38) Sen. Kerry [D-MA]: [Introducing S. 2155] Record Text Introduced (By Sen. John Kerry [D-MA])Sen. John Kerry [D-MA]: [Introducing S. 2155] Mr. President, today Senator Isakson and I introduce legislation to increase civil penalties for child exploitation. Our legislation is a small piece of a larger battle that we believe will stop would-be child predators and protect our children. Predators like the ones who exploited Masha, a little girl who was featured on Prime Time Live a few weeks ago, and the thousands of other children who are victims of these horrific crimes. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child pornography has become a multi-billion dollar internet business. With the increasingly sophisticated technology of digital media, child pornography has become easier to produce and purchase. Countless people around the world have instant access to pictures and videos posted on the Internet and, unfortunately, millions of these images are pornographic depictions of infants and children. Masha is one of these children, whose images–hundreds of them–are on the Internet and being downloaded around the world. And while the man who sexually abused Masha and posted the pictures on the web is in jail, the damage has been done and will continue until people stop downloading pictures of her off the internet. Under current law, a victim of child exploitation is entitled to civil statutory damages in U.S. District Court in the amount of $50,000–less than the civil penalty for illegally downloading music off the internet. This penalty is far too low to effectively deter would-be child pornographers. This legislation increases the civil penalties recoverable by victims of child sexual exploitation, including internet child pornography, to at least $150,000. This increased penalty will serve as a deterrent to those who disseminate and possess child pornography, as well as a means of compensating victims of this terrible abuse. If someone downloads a song off the Internet, Federal copyright law provides for statutory damages to be awarded to the copyright holder in the amount of $150,000. Downloading child pornography is far more detrimental to the victim than downloading copyrighted music and, as a result, the penalty should reflect that. But it is not only the statutory damages that are flawed. The current statute states that “Any minor who is a victim of a violation [of the act] may sue in United States District Court”. This language has been interpreted literally by a Federal district court to restrict recovery to plaintiffs whose injuries occurred while they were minors. Thus, when victims turn 18 they cannot recover against their perpetrators even if pornographic images of them as children are still distributed via the internet. Our legislation would clarify the statute to include victims of child pornography who are injured as adults by the downloading of their pornographic images. This bill takes an important step towards ensuring justice for victims of child exploitation. I would urge speedy passage of this legislation as a stand alone bill or encourage its inclusion in a larger child protection package. It is the very least Congress can do for Masha and the thousands of children like her who have suffered at the hands of these criminals. I thank Senator Isakson for his co-sponsorship, and I look forward to working with him and all my colleagues to see that it passes the Senate. Quote: SUMMARY:12/20/2005–Introduced. Amends the federal criminal code to allow any person who was the victim of a sexual crime while a minor to sue in federal court for damages for resulting injury, regardless of whether the injury occurred while such person was a minor. (Current law allows a minor who is the victim of a sexual crime to sue.) Increases from $50,000 to $150,000 the minimum amount of damages such a victim shall be deemed to have sustained. Quote: Last Action: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Quote: Sponsor: Sen. John Kerry [D-MA] Cosponsors Sen. John Isakson [R-GA] Sen. Mary Landrieu [D-LA] __________________________________________________ ____________ Quote: H.R. 4703: To provide meaningful civil remedies for victims of the sexual exploitation of children Last Action: Introductory remarks on measure. (CR H229) Status: Introduced (By Rep. John Gingrey [R-GA]):>Mr. Speaker, I rise today to share the heartbreaking story of a 13-year-old girl in my district and to call for tougher penalties for child pornography. I have introduced, along with Representative Tierney, H.R. 4703, called Masha’s law after 13-year-old Masha Allen, whose adoptive father posted pornographic images of her at age 5 on the Internet. Thankfully, law enforcement officials tracked and convicted her father. Masha now lives in Douglasville, Georgia, with a new and loving adoptive parent. However, hundreds of her images are still on the Internet; and her photographs are some of the most widely downloaded pictures in the world. Mr. Speaker, we absolutely must do something to harshly reprimand those who produce, distribute and consume child pornography. Did you know that under current law the penalties for illegally downloading music are three times higher than the penalties for downloading child pornography? This is absurd and unjust. My legislation would increase the statutory damages for victims of child exploitation and ensure victims can sue those who download their pictures. We must protect those who have no way of protecting themselves from this horrific and sickening crime, and I ask that you join me in supporting Masha’s law. Quote: Last Action: Feb 14, 2006: Introductory remarks on measure. (CR H229) Quote: Sponsor: Rep. John Gingrey [R-GA] Cosponsors Rep. John Tierney [D-MA] Quote: Background Information This is a House bill, indicated by the “H.R.” before its number. A bill is a legislative proposal before Congress. A bill must be passed by both the House and Senate and then be signed by the President before it becomes law. Please write, call, and email your senators and representatives to ask that they add their support as co-sponsors of these bills in the House and Senate.  LINK To find your Congressional representatives by name, state or zipcode.

Matt Luria