In this week’s Legal Lis, I discussed many of the legal aspects related to the recently leaked nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities. I also talked about California’s new “Yes-Means-Yes” bill, which is related to sexual assault on college campuses. Below, I’ve included some of the legal issues that arise from these two topics as well as my thoughts. If you want to hear the full discussion, you can now listen to the Legal Lis podcast here: http://foxrad.io/1oDQawL
Celebrity Nude Photo Hack:
It’s hard to feel safe on the Internet. With all the hacking going on, it’s almost impossible for a person to expect that private information will, in fact, remain private. Identity theft, stolen credit card info, leaked photos, hacked emails – you don’t have to look too far to find a story that involves at least one of these issues. Enter the latest story in which several celebrities had private photos stolen and leaked to the masses.
Some argue that these celebrities shouldn’t be surprised. If you have nude photos stored somewhere on the Internet, you’re exposing yourself to the possibility that these photos will end up in the wrong hands. Others think that when a person sends an intimate photo to a significant other or spouse or friend – in some way that’s intended to remain private – you should be able to expect that those photos will remain private. No matter which way you lean on this issue, there are laws that apply.
One issue that has to be discussed related to this leak is what kind of liability there is for Twitter, Facebook and other sites that have or had links to the photos. Legally, the truth is that there is not much liability. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a federal law that creates a lot of protection for providers of an “interactive computer service.” In fact, the law states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Case law testing the immunity of Internet service providers under Section 230 almost always goes the way of no liability. For example, in one case, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that “lawsuits seeking to hold a service provider liable for its exercise of a publisher’s traditional editorial functions — such as deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone or alter content — are barred.” The decision goes on to point out that “Section 230 was enacted, in part, to maintain the robust nature of Internet communication and, accordingly, to keep government interference in the medium to a minimum.”
This is just one of the issues that arise from the recent photo hack. You can hear more – including discussion on revenge porn and punishment for the people who actually do the hacking – on the Legal Lis podcast.
What do you think: Should we expect privacy on the Internet? Should Twitter and the like be held liable?
California’s “Yes-Means-Yes” Bill
The so-called “yes-means-yes” bill, which was passed unanimously by the California State Senate, would require universities in CA to adopt a standard of unambiguous consent from all parties engaging in sexual activity. The bill defines affirmative consent as an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity” and goes on to state that it “is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity.” That someone doesn’t protest or resist does not equal consent. Neither does silence.
The goal of the bill is to prevent sexual assault on campus. And with the White House reporting that 1 in 5 female college students is sexually assaulted while in college, this is a laudable and necessary goal. But some aren’t convinced the bill will achieve its goals, arguing that people who don’t get an explicit “yes” before sex will be deemed rapists even though there was, say, nonverbal affirmation.
What are your thoughts: Do you think this bill is a good idea? Can it achieve its goals?
I hope you enjoy the new podcast! Every Thursday from now on, a Legal Lis podcast will be made available so you can listen to the topics I’m discussing.