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Cartoon pornography is the portrayal of illustrated or animated fictional characters in erotic or sexual situations. Cartoon pornography includes, but is not limited to, hentai and parody renditions of famous cartoons and comics.
Artists who draw pre-existing characters do not generally have any special notability among the cartoon pornography community; in contrast, some of the artists who draw their own characters, such as Bill Ward, Kevin J. Taylor, or John Willie, have gained a cult fan base.
The legal status of cartoon pornography varies from country to country. In addition to the normal legal status of pornography, much cartoon pornography depicts potentially minor [that is, underage] characters engaging in sexual acts. One of the primary reasons for this may be due to the many cartoons featuring major characters who are not adults. Cartoon pornography does not always have depictions of minors in sexual acts or situations, but that which does may fall under the jurisdiction laws concerning child pornography. Drawings of pre-existing characters can in theory be in violation of copyright law no matter the situation the characters are shown in.
In the United States, cartoon porn that does not contain depictions of minors generally falls under the category of speech protected by the First Amendment. For more information on general legality of pornography, see Pornography in the United States. Even in the case of depiction of minors, the US Supreme Court has found that in certain conditions, banning the depiction may violate freedom of expression.
As of the PROTECT Act of 2003, the legal status of cartoon pornography with minors has been more thoroughly addressed and refined than it was before under the previous law of the United States. The new act made any realistic appearing computer generated depiction that is indistinguishable from a depiction of an actual minor in sexual situations or engaging in sexual acts illegal under 18 U.S.C. § 2252A. Drawings, cartoons, sculptures, and paintings of minors in sexual situations that do not pass the Miller test were made illegal under 18 U.S.C. § 1466A thus creating a loop hole around the Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition decision.
In October 2008, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund became involved in a case defending an Iowan comic collector. This is related to obscenity charges involving pornography depicting minors, being applied to a fictional comic book. Judge Gritzner was petitioned to drop some of the charges. The motion was initially heard on June 24, 2008 but was not widely publicized prior to the Fund's involvement. Handley eventually plead guilty to charges of possessing "obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children" and was sentenced to six months in jail.
Cartoon pornography is illegal in Canada if it depicts a person under the age of 18, including fictional ones.
A recent court case in Australia has found a man possessing cartoon pornography involving the characters Bart, Lisa and Marge from The Simpsons guilty after the images were described as Child Pornography. According to the judge of the court case, the "purpose of anti-child pornography legislation was to stop sexual exploitation and child abuse where images of "real" children were depicted" and that the images could "fuel demand for material that does involve the abuse of children."
Virtual child pornography can be punished with up to 5 years in prison in Germany, German prosecutors investigated the video game Second Life because of some people role playing as underage characters with virtual underage avatars.
Cartoon pornography depicting minors is in principle permitted in the Netherlands, if it is clear that the pornography is not depicting real persons. The criterium used is that 'a child should see the difference': if such picture would be so realistic it would be 'real' to a child it is seen as child pornography. The consequence is that pornographic cartoons depicting are permitted, as long as they do not become so realistic that they almost look like a photo. In addition, photos of adults which have been amended to make them look like minors are seen as child pornography.
The Coroners and Justice Bill (which came into force on 6 April 2010) criminalises all sexual images of under 18s (including non-realistic depictions), as well as images of adults where the predominant impression conveyed is that the person shown is under 18 despite the fact that some of the physical characteristics shown are not those of a person under 18.
The Uppsala district court punished a manga translator with a monetary fine and probation for possession of fanart computer images, deemed by the court to be underage. This was appealed and taken to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal upheld the former verdict, for 39 of the 51 pictures, and the monetary fine was reduced. It was further appealed to the Supreme court, where they decided that the images where not realistic and could not be mistaken for real children, thus declaring him not guilty.