When your nude pics wind up online, laws are unlikely to help you and if they can, it will be too late. I’m not a fan of sexting, or trading sexually explicit pictures with a love interest simply because I like to have control over my image at all times. But when you are young and enamored, you trust that the excitement of such displays would only serve to enhance the interests of your intended and might even make the thrill of sex even better. But to me, that’s the realm of the shortsighted. What happens if the breakup is nasty, or if the person with whom you are trading these racy pictures has no genuine feeling for you, your privacy or your wellbeing? The images just might wind up on the Internet. If you consider, what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet, your pictures might turn up in the most inconvenient spaces with truly negative unintended consequences.
But okay, you were indiscrete, and your boss, coworkers, family members and snarky friends wind up seeing your nethers, boobs and butt. Is there any recourse for the person who was exposed? Can the person who exposed you face any liability? Can the pictures or video be retrieved and never seen again? The answer is a definite “maybe but unlikely!” It depends on the circumstances.
The first of its kind conviction has just finished sentencing phase, and the perpetrator lost only because he made revenge porn his business model.
California’s conviction of Kevin Bollaert landed him the potential of 18 years behind bars. Bollaert posted humiliating pictures online to his website for people who wanted to exact revenge on their ex’s. For publishing the private pictures without permission or right of possession, Bollaert was convicted of 27 counts of identity theft and extortion in connection to the thousands of photos posted online.
The San Diego man heard testimony from a stream of women flown in from around the country about how he demanded cash in return for pulling the images or video down. Some of the women talked about how the emotional distress forced them into therapy, or led to family estrangement and unfathomable humiliation. Bollaert burst into tears as he listened to testimony from his victims. His mother testified that he truly regretted what he did. But in explaining Bollaert’s punishment, the judge said that the magnitude of his victimology demanded no less than the almost two decades of incarceration imposed.
Bollaert’s conviction was based on his running a website that allowed the anonymous posting of nude photos of women plus their private information without their permission. He also ran another website where the victims could pay him hundreds of dollars to take down the embarrassing content posted on the first site.
Noted defense attorney Steve Brill wrote in Huffington Post last February that prosecution of these cases are difficult at best. He wrote about the case of People v. Barber, the first “revenge porn” case of its kind, that was brought in New York Criminal Court by a woman who alleged that her boyfriend sent pictures of her naked body to her sister and her employer.
“The ex-boyfriend was arrested and charged with aggravated harassment, dissemination of unlawful surveillance and public display of offensive sexual material. A New York County Criminal Judge dismissed this “first case of its kind” for exactly these reasons: The conduct was not covered by the crimes charged against the boyfriend. Specifically, the judge reasoned that the harassment charge did not apply because the images (or communications) were not sent directly to the girlfriend. The unlawful surveillance charge did not apply because the images were obtained lawfully and with the ex-girlfriend’s consent. Lastly, the public display of offensive material did apply because, well, nudity in and of itself is not offensive material. Ultimately, although the judge recognized that the girlfriend did not grant permission to her boyfriend to send the images, no laws in New York could support the criminal charges.”
So what are the three best ways of making sure nude or sexually explicit pictures of you do not wind up on the Internet?
- Don’t do it!
- Don’t do it!
- Don’t do it!
Privacy laws might not apply as well as public decency laws. Criminal statues are slowly coming on the books, but what’s on the books might not sync up with your specific case.
I know, love is kind, love is trusting, blind and all the stuff. But it can also be stupid! When it comes to the Internet and your reputation, it’s a battle out there…. Protect yourself at all times. You will only have yourself to blame!
Click here for a list of states with revenge porn statues:
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