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Revenge Porn and Related Laws

In recent times, the non-consensual publishing of private images online has been a topic of debate among lawmakers. Since our last article discussing revenge porn, there have been new laws passed and proposed that show state governments’ increasing pushback against posters of revenge porn and their facilitators. More and more states are passing laws that address cyberstalking, cyberharassment, and similar offenses leading to a wide array of people prosecuted for revenge porn.

What is the new California law?

On October 1, 2013, Senate Bill 255 (“SB 255”) took effect and was codified in California Penal Code § 647(j)(4). On January 1, 2015, a new amendment to this section went into effect specifying that a defendant is liable if he/she should have known that the subject of the photo did not consent to having his/her picture published online. An amendment to California Civil Code § 1708.85, also came into effect recently in order to allow victims of revenge porn to sue for civil damages. Now, revenge porn posters and hosts may be held liable, both criminally and civilly, in California. In fact, a recent California case caused quite a stir when the operator of a website, who allowed third-party posting of revenge porn, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for identity theft and extortion. So, with the new civil code amendment, this form of prosecution should be more available to victims.

What other states have new laws?

Although, it started with New Jersey and California, sixteen other states now have laws creating criminal liability for revenge porn or similar offenses. These laws, include, charges of stalking, harassment, unlawful distribution of images, disorderly conduct or posting private photographs as a misdemeanor, posting private images for pecuniary gain, violation/invasion of privacy as a misdemeanor, or even a felony, video voyeurism as a felony, non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images as a felony, and unauthorized distribution of sensitive images as a misdemeanor or felony if there are prior convictions. At this time, Wisconsin is the only state besides California that already has civil liability for revenge porn, but other states are not too far behind.

Is there federal legislation?

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, website carriers are immune from liability for material posted by third parties, so long as the content does not violate copyright or criminal law. This is to prevent such claims as libel or violation of privacy against Internet Service Providers (e.g., Facebook, Google, Yahoo).  Also, 18 U.S.C. § 2261A relates to cyberstalking by using any facility of interstate or foreign commerce.   Moreover, new propositions for a federal bill regarding revenge porn have been drafted, but no immediate legislation change is in sight.

At our law firm, we guide clients in legal matters regarding online privacy, revenge porn, and remedies against cyberstalking or cyberharassment by using our knowledge to create innovative solutions. If you have been a victim of cyberstalking, cyberharassment, or revenge porn, please contact us to speak with an attorney who can help explain the legal remedies.