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updated 5/9/2013 2:18:24 PM ET 2013-05-09T18:18:24

Chances are, you've never seen, or even heard of, "pixie porn" (it's not a huge market).

Unless it's specifically your thing, you're probably not missing out on much: It depicts juvenile-looking fantasy creatures (like elves or fairies) engaging in sexual congress.

All images are drawn, and involve no real children (or pixies) whatsoever, but one New Zealand man has been jailed for possessing it, and if you own any images, you could be, too.

The story, which first broke in late April, goes like this: Ronald Clark from Auckland, New Zealand, is a convicted sex offender who did his time in various rehab programs.

Law enforcement discovered images of childlike pixies performing decidedly adult acts in Clark's manga (Japanese comics) and hentai (manga's pornographic counterpart) on Clark's computer, which he had acquired online. The net result: a three-month stay in jail.

Few rational people would dispute the idea that child pornography is a particularly loathsome aspect of modern culture, but pixie porn isn't as clear-cut.

The characters involved are not human and, consequently, are often not technically children. Furthermore, the images spring from the mind of an artist rather than from the exploitation of real minors.

Photographing a child with sexual intent is harmful on a number of levels. But what about drawing an image of a nonhuman who looks like a child?

End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) is a global group of activists opposed to child pornography in every form — even when it's not, strictly speaking, child pornography.

"This material falls under the New Zealand legislation [against child pornography] and is illegal regardless of the defense case," Alan Bell, the director of ECPAT's chapter in Auckland, New Zealand, told TechNewsDaily. "Sometimes the use of wording such as 'pixies and elves' or ' comics ' in relation to offensive material can be misleading and trivialize the serious issue of objectionable material being produced and distributed."

Bell acknowledges that pixie porn is not harmful in and of itself, but believes that it can act as a gateway to seeking out real child pornography, or even acting on pedophilic desires.

"In our experience, any material that depicts sexual exploitation of children should not be made available," he said. "Although drawings and cartoons depicting child sexual abuse may be at the lower level of offending, these images and the sexualization of children generally could lead to stimulating an interest in other child sex abuse images where the victims are real."

Charles Brownstein, the executive director of the New York City-based Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) advocacy group, disagrees vehemently.

"This case represents merely the latest in a recent history of prosecutors attacking individuals for the possession of expressive art using laws that are designed to prevent the abuse and exploitation of real people," he told TechNewsDaily.

The "recent history" Brownstein referenced began in 2003, with the passage of the PROTECT (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today) Act in the United States.

"It's a problematic law," he said. "Half of it was great: [it gave us] AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response) Alert [to find missing children] and tougher remedies to prosecute child sex tourism. The other half targeted expressive content, and has been used to lock people away for possession of artwork." [See also: 10 Worst Internet Laws In the World ]

One area where Bell and Brownstein agree is that the artwork in question is generally distasteful and even disturbing.

"Some cartoons and hentai material are quite grotesque and offensive, and obviously the courts decided that the material in question was objectionable when they passed [Clark's] sentence," said Bell.

Brownstein holds that pixie porn, however disagreeable, is still art, and art deserves protection under the First Amendment (in the United States; the legal situation in New Zealand is different).

"The important thing here is that one needn't like nor approve of the content or substance of expressive art, but the fact remains, it is expressive art. It is not criminal behavior," said Brownstein.

Regardless of individual feelings, the law is clear: In the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, possessing expressive art about minors (or pixies who look like minors) in sexual situations can land you in prison. Whether or not it should is a much tougher question.

Follow Marshall Honorof @marshallhonorof. Follow us @TechNewsDaily, on  Facebook  or on Google+.

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