Legal to Take, Post Naked Baby Pictures?

Article Placeholder Image
By Aditi Mukherji, JD on October 27, 2013 12:01 PM

From bath time to running through sprinklers, ostensibly cute naked baby pictures have landed a surprising number of parents in legal "hot water" (sorry).

While busting parents for naked baby photos is a relatively new phenomenon with sweeping legal gray areas, there are a few situations in particular that seem to have a magnetic pull on law enforcement. But whether or not it's legal to take naked baby pictures, or post them online, isn't an easy to answer legal question (no surprise there).

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you post a photo or video of your baby's bum online:

Is It Child Pornography or Abuse?

Anecdotally, there have been incidents of parents getting arrested for posting photos of their children in a state of, shall we say, undress. What's troubling is that many of the supposedly "incriminating" photos may not raise red flags for many (if not most) parents -- especially if they're just bath-time photos or artistic photo-ops.

For example, one Utah couple was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor after, police said, the mother took photos of the child's father sexually abusing their infant son. The charges were ultimately dropped after investigators determined the images were actually harmless post-bath-time photos. A similar ordeal happened to an Arizona couple.

There have been a handful of such cases over the past few years and though most of the charges were eventually dropped, the damage to the parents' reputations and jobs was done.

The rule of thumb: If the photo-op flirts with child abuse or endangerment or seems remotely susceptible to being misconstrued as child pornography, don't take or share such photos. A baby in a basket is probably fine (and often insanely adorable). A baby in a toilet or trash can? Not so much.

OK to Post, Share?

Without a clear legal rule to follow, the "bottom-line" here is that parents should exercise caution when sharing photos of their babies (or other people's babies) online -- especially in their birthday suits. It's often the parents themselves who end up worrying about the photos being misinterpreted or misused.

Even if the practice is mostly legal, you may find yourself deeply unsettled when some stranger downloads that nude photo of Little Timmy during bath-time -- a stranger whom you, no doubt, will immediately assume is a pedophile and not some benign Daily Squee Superfan.

There's also the separate concern of Timmy growing up (as children tend to do). Years from now, Timmy may be less than thrilled about his naked baby photos floating around on the Internet ad infinitum -- even if his tush as a tiny tot was un"bare"ably cute.

Squee!

Related Resources: