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Monday, December 9, 2013

Pennsylvania lawmaker expected to introduce bill criminalizing revenge porn

Pennsylvania may be the next state to consider whether to enact legislation criminalizing revenge porn--generally, the non-consensual distribution of nude or sexually explicit photos or videos with the intent to cause emotional distress. State Sen. Judy Schwank (D) is expected to introduce a bill that would make revenge porn a second-degree misdemeanor:

"The nature of these acts is particularly personal and malignant, and the abuse can be devastating to victims, who nationally have lost jobs, had relationships with family and friends severely damaged and found themselves stalked by strangers," Democratic state Sen. Judy Schwank wrote in a memo to other senators seeking co-sponsors for her bill.

 

Currently, authorities can try to punish people through existing laws such as harassment, but Schwank said that isn't always easy and doesn't carry enough penalties.

 

"Even harassment charges apparently would apply only if there is a repeated course of conduct despite the reality that a single Internet posting can result today in an infinite number of viewings," Schwank wrote in her co-sponsorship memo.

 

She said her legislation would make posting such images a second-degree misdemeanor, which is a grade higher than harassment. If the victim is a minor, the penalty would be steeper, a third-degree felony.

Last week, Delegate-elect Marcus Simon introduced a revenge porn bill in the Virginia General Assembly, which the House of Delegates is expected to consider in January. Several other states are considering similar bills, but only California and New Jersey actually have passed such laws. 

With websites peddling revenge porn reportedly growing, these bills seek to provide protection to victims for whom remedies are usually inadequate.

Victims of revenge porn are typically women--like this teacher who was recently suspended from teaching after the school discovered a nude photo of her on a revenge porn site. However, this is not always the case. Recently, a male doctor was the victim of a vengeful ex-lover who retaliated by posting pictures he had sent her. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer:

He was a doctor having an affair with a married patient he was treating for depression.

 

He sent her lewd pictures and videos of himself. When their affair ended, she accused him of retaliating by getting her fired. She responded by posting online the explicit pictures and videos he’d sent her. Then, he asked a judge to force her to keep his pictures private.

 

The case, playing out before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Norbert Nadel, illustrates the new privacy battles being waged after bitter breakups and relationships forged in an increasingly online world. Similar cases have helped spawn a new catch phrase – “revenge porn” – and have caused legislators to change laws in some states.

 

“The reason for its increase is convenience,” said lawyer John Garon, director of the Northern Kentucky University Law + Informatics Institute. “The camera has become part of the bedroom.”

 

Amelia’s Dolly Beattie is suing Terrence McCoy. She accuses McCoy of taking advantage of his status as her doctor while having sex with her.

Opponents of such legislation typically are concerned that these laws chill protected speech. But, as CRL&P has argued, such forecasts seem improbable. Revenge porn is capable of such narrow defintition that carefully crafted legislation likely would not affect protected First Amendment speech.

CRL&P related posts:

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/civil_rights/2013/12/pennsylvania-lawmaker-expected-to-introduce-bill-criminalizing-revenge-porn.html

First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Revenge Porn | Permalink

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