James D. Kent, a college professor, faced several counts related to the possession of child pornography when IT professionals at his university found explicit images of children in the browser cache on his laptop. But, the New York Court of Appeals let him off the hook, finding that he did not actually possess the images in violation of the law because he did not download or save the files to his computer.
The Court found that accessing or viewing something on the internet is not the same as actual possession. "[T ]he purposeful viewing of child pornography on the internet is now legal in New York," wrote one judge. Assistant professor Kent faces jail time on other related charges, but the Court's interpretation of "possession" may pave the way for a change in what is considered the illegal possession of child pornography.
The New York court's opinion on the possession of child pornography does not change the law in North Carolina nor does it change the interpretation of federal law related to child porn. If a person is accused of the federal, rather than state, crime of possession of child pornography, he or she can be convicted of possession if sexually explicit images of minors are found in the browser's cache if he or she is aware of the caching function.
Most computers automatically store webpage information in a specific folder, or cache. When you visit a website, your computer looks to the cache for the site's information. If it is there, your computer will not download the same information again, making for a faster web-browsing experience.
Source: PopSci, "Do You Possess What you View Online?," Dan Nosowitz, May 9, 2012