What Are the Laws on Downloading Pornographic Materials?

Obtaining pornographic materials depicting adults is not illegal but can be regulated if the content is considered obscene, according to the Law Library. Knowingly obtaining materials depicting minors performing sexual acts, simulating sexual intercourse, or exposing their genitals in a sexual manner is illegal, and offenders are generally prosecuted.

The right for individuals to obtain and view certain types of pornography via the Internet and other sources is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, explains the Law Library. This type of pornography includes writings, photographs and videos that are primarily intended to arouse sexual desire in adults. Viewing obscene adult pornography or pornography depicting children, however, is not protected under the First Amendment.

In general, obscene adult pornography includes content that depicts sexual acts in a blatantly violent, disturbing or offensive manner, such a sadism and bestiality. Legal authorities ultimately make the final decision when it comes to determining which types of adult pornography are obscene, notes the Law Library. The high courts deem it necessary to prosecute individuals who knowingly and willingly collect, promote, distribute, create or solicit child pornography in order to protect minors from sexual exploitation and abuse, according to Cornell University Law School.