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Professional computer technicians who trip across child pornography may be required to report it — or face misdemeanor charges.

The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted 9-1 Wednesday to advance HB155 to the full House.

"This will certainly help with our ongoing efforts to fight the horrendous crime of manufacturing and distributing child pornography," said Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, the bill's sponsor.

"It does not require the computer technician to search for any child pornography," he said. Also it requires reporting only depictions of sexually explicit conduct, "so there's going to be no concern that this will implicate images of a baby in a bathtub."

The bill would provide immunity against civil lawsuits for technicians who report in good faith, but make a mistake.

Hall said technicians now might be reluctant to report such discoveries out of worry that they may lose a client, anger employers or get sued. "This will let them say, 'You know what, I had to report. I'm required to report.'"

Hall said at least 12 other states have similar laws. When asked if non-reporting has been a problem, he said he had no way of knowing.

For that reason, Elaine Augustine of Lehi, who said her husband and son work in the computer industry, said the law would be hard to enforce without violating technicians' rights. She urged the committee to instead merely offer immunity for technicians to allow safe reporting of what they see.

Similarly, Dan Deuel, a private consultant, testified, "I don't know anybody in the IT field that wouldn't immediately report something like this unless they were afraid of getting sued." But he said making a crime out of nonreporting goes too far.

Hall said the bill is similar to other laws that require people to report child abuse, or face a misdemeanor. Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said Hall's bill "makes clear that in Utah, we don't stand for child abuse."