California Criminalizes 'Revenge Porn' - Technologist
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California Criminalizes 'Revenge Porn'

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

In my most recent blog, I reported on the phenomenon of "revenge porn," the unfortunate practice by former lovers, boyfriends, and husbands of posting nude and sexual photos and videos of women with whom they had been intimate.

Now, according to Reuters, California Gov. Jerry Brown has just signed a unique state law that criminalizes revenge porn.

California's Revenge Porn Law

The new law makes it a misdemeanor for individuals to take and then circulate without consent such images online with the intent to harass or annoy. And a conviction for violation of this law is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offense. The new law is immediately effective.

The new revenge porn law was preceded by a California law that already made it a crime to take sexually explicit photos of another person without his or her consent or knowledge. The new revenge porn law extends the same misdemeanor criminal status to anyone who takes nude pictures of another person with the understanding that those images are to remain private but subsequently disseminates the images without permission to cause serious emotional distress.

Criticism of New Law

Some may argue that the misdemeanor penalties of the new California revenge porn law are not severe enough. Opponents may believe that the need to prove intent to cause serious emotional distress may be too a high standard for guilt under the statute.

Moreover, critics may be disenchanted that the new law does not cover "selfies" -- meaning that the law does not criminalize the subsequent distribution of nude photos women have taken of themselves that they intended to share only with their partners. In addition, many may not like that the new law does not specifically go after operators of Web sites and instead only targets the people who post the damaging photos.

While such arguments can be made, the new California revenge porn law is a step in the right direction in creating criminal liability for the harm caused by public revenge porn humiliation.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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