California's First Legal Action Against Alleged Revenge Porn Site Owner - California Case Law
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California's First Legal Action Against Alleged Revenge Porn Site Owner

As the second state in the nation to criminalize the activity, California has taken a strong stand against revenge porn. This week, California went a step further and charged Kevin Christopher Bollaert with 31 counts related to his ownership and operation of a revenge porn website, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Present Case

Kevin Christopher Bollaert owned and operated a website called UGotPosted.com, that allowed anonymous users to post sexually explicit and nude photos of their ex-lovers, mostly women, along with personal info including the women's name, age, location and Facebook profile page, reports the Los Angeles Times. Trying to take full financial advantage of the situation, Bollaert also allegedly created and ran a website called ChangeMyReputation.com, where victims could pay to have their images removed from the UGotPosted.com site, according to a press release issued by the Office of Attorney General Kamala Harris.

According to his arrest warrant, Bollaert's website featured over 10,000 posts between December 2, 2012 and September 7, 2013, is estimated to "received payments totaling tens of thousands of dollars," according to the official press release. The felony complaint lists 31 counts for crimes including extortion, identity theft and conspiracy, and faces fines and imprisonment.

California's Revenge Porn Law

California's revenge porn law makes it a misdemeanor to distribute, without consent, a nude image of someone "with the intent to cause serious emotional distress." A first violation carries a penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, where a second offense carries a penalty of up to one-year in jail, and fines up to $2,000. The law does not include "selfies" or "sexting" where the person takes a picture of themselves, and then distributes it. Because the law only criminalizes the posting of images, Bollaert does not face any charges under this statute.

Legal Issues

This case present interesting legal questions: Does the California revenge porn law need to be expanded to include owner/operators of revenge porn websites? Can identity theft be a general offense against the public, or must it be tailored to a particular victim? Regarding the former, it seems for now Attorney General Harris has found a work around. The latter question will become a central one in determining how cases against revenge porn website owners and operators will progress, reports Time.

As the growing debate surrounding revenge porn, and how to handle it, continues, California is definitely a state to watch whose approach may set the standard for other states to follow.

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