Using Copyright to Combat Revenge Porn
25 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2014 Last revised: 18 Jul 2022
Date Written: 2014
The phenomenon of “revenge porn” – defined as sexually explicit images that are publicly shared online, without the consent of the pictured individual – has attracted national attention. Victims of revenge porn often suffer devastating consequences, including losing their jobs, but have had limited success using tort laws to prevent the spread of their images.
Victims need a remedy that provides takedown procedures, civil liability for uploaders and websites, and the threat of money damages. Copyright law provides all of these remedies. Because an estimated 80 percent of revenge porn images are “selfies,” meaning that the subject and the photographer are one in the same, the vast majority of victims can use copyright law to protect themselves.
Although copyright is not a perfect solution, it provides a powerful tool to combat revenge porn. In Part I, I examine how Section 230 protects revenge porn traffickers, like IsAnyoneUp, from liability. Part II discusses why harassment, stalking and privacy laws are often inadequate means of fighting revenge porn. In Part III, I explain why existing and proposed legislation presents problems for both victims and free speech. Finally, Part IV outlines why copyright functions as a powerful tool to combat revenge porn.
Keywords: revenge porn, copyright, privacy, cyberlaw, First Amendment, sexting, free speech, section 230, DMCA
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