California outlaws 'revenge porn' in first-of-its-kind legislation

Wed Oct 2, 2013 7:09pm EDT
 
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown signed a first-of-its-kind state law criminalizing what has become known as revenge porn, the distribution of private, explicit photos of other people on the Internet, usually by ex-lovers or spouses, to humiliate them.

The measure, which passed both houses of the Democratic-led state legislature almost unanimously last month, makes it a misdemeanor for individuals to take and then circulate without consent such images online with the intent to harass or annoy.

A conviction is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offense.

Signed into law late on Tuesday, the measure goes into effect immediately. It takes aim at an increasingly prevalent act of betrayal that typically occurs when a person posts nude images of a former romantic partner online as a way of exacting revenge after a breakup.

The images often end up proliferating on dozens of revenge porn websites that specialize in publishing such pictures, some of which charge the subjects fees to remove the offending material. The only other recourse victims have had was to pursue the perpetrators in civil court.

"Until now, there was no tool for law enforcement to protect victims," said the legislation's chief sponsor, state Senator Anthony Cannella, a Republican from the Central Valley town of Ceres. "Too many have had their lives upended because of an action of another that they trusted."

California law already made it a crime to take sexually explicit photos or video images of another person without his or her consent or knowledge.

The new statute extends the same misdemeanor classification to anyone who takes nude pictures of another person under the mutual understanding that those images are to remain private but subsequently distributes the images without permission to cause serious emotional distress.   Continued...

 
California Governor Jerry Brown speaks at the 7th Annual California Hall of Fame induction ceremony at The California Museum in Sacramento, California March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni