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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court struck down a congressional ban on virtual child pornography Tuesday, ruling that the First Amendment protects pornography or other sexual images that only appear to depict real children engaged in sex.

The 6-3 ruling is a victory for both pornographers and legitimate artists such as moviemakers, who argued that a broad ban on simulated child sex could make it a crime to depict a sex scene like those in the recent movies ``Traffic'' or ``Lolita.''

The court said language in a 1996 child pornography law was unconstitutionally vague and far-reaching.