The New York Times Magazine takes a detailed look at the issue of restitution to people whose images were used in child pornography. In at least a dozen cases, defendants have appealed restitution decisions and mostly won. In five of those cases, federal appeals courts have expressed skepticism that the victims should receive more than nominal restitution. Two other appeals courts have allowed young women to recover from individual defendants as members of the group of viewers but, so far, only for amounts of $10,000 or less.
Last spring, the legal battle was focused on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. One panel of three judges upheld full restitution to a woman named Amy of millions of dollars from a Texas man. A second three-judge panel affirmed a separate $529,000 restitution order for Amy against a New Orleans defendant, but voiced its fundamental disagreement with the original ruling. The issue may be resolved by the Supreme Court. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a database of more than 5,000 child-pornography victims. The center estimates that 12 percent of them have had their photos distributed across the Internet, meaning that they could be eligible for restitution.