Why Copyrighting Your Nudes Won't Protect You from Revenge Porn

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Please note that this ain't me.
Relationship abuse is nothing new, but the internet has taken it to new extremes. Revenge porn is one way angry (mostly) men are attempting to get back at (mostly) women for their alleged wrongs. Some people say that copyrighting your nudes will protect you from the dangers of revenge porn. Here's why they're wrong.


This post is a bit of a misnomer. Under federal copyright law, you have copyrights in your creations the second they are created. When you snap that selfie, The Law just divinely anoints you with the blessings of a copyright from now until 70 years after your death. There's nothing else you have to do. However, if you want to SUE anyone who infringes on your copyright, you first have to submit an application for registration to the government and have that application approved. If you do that, and win a judgment in your favor, you could receive up to $150,000 in statutory damages. In an age where nude selfies are becoming exceedingly more common and getting passed around, consensually or otherwise, like a basket of breadsticks at a suburban Olive Garden, a lot of people have been picking up on the idea that to protect yourself from non-consensual sharing of nudes, you should just register it, and then sue the pants off anyone who dares to share your images. Unfortunately, there's a lot more to it than that.

The Copyright Act provides really broad protections (until death plus 70 years) because it was created with the intention of incentivizing creativity in our society. If you know you have certain protections from your work being stolen or copied, you're going to be more likely to create more stuff and share it with the world, in theory. Whether or not the sad guy making house music in his mom's basement is A) thinking critically about whether he should keep producing beats depending on the legal protections said beats are afforded; and B) producing the kind of creativity that Congress sought to protect when it created laws like the Copyright Act, is certainly up for debate.

Nevertheless, there's been a growing call to use that handy lil Copyright Act to help protect the creativity you don't necessarily want to be shared with the world, like naked selfies. With the astronomical increase of access to camera phones it's literally no surprise to anyone that people are using those camera phones to take pictures of themselves naked. It's human nature. When the internet was invented it was like exclusively porn sites for nerds. Now it's just mostly porn sites for nerds (and everyone else under the sun). When humans get their hands on new tech they invariably wanna do naked things with it. And while you can do generally benign naked things with your camera phone (snapping a topless selfie, for example, is an instantaneous act that in the moment of creation is arguably hurting no one), those benign things can become life altering if they get in the hands of the wrong person.

Revenge porn is also a bit of a misnomer, because there are a ton of reasons why someone might want to post your nude photos on the internet without your consent, and revenge is only one of them. It could be a former (or current!) romantic partner who feels wronged and posts the nudes you sent him (and it's almost always a him) on the internet to get back at you. But, it could also be an internet troll who gets ahold of Jennifer Lawrence's nudes and posts them for the thrill of it, for example. Along with the photos, whoever's posting them could also post your full name, phone number, and address (this is called doxxing). The more views the photos get, the higher up they go on a Google search of your name, potentially marring your reputation for years. This information is not meant to scare you, it's simply a reality that you have to face if you're going to be sending nudes in 2019.

This information is not meant to scare you, it's simply a reality that you have to face if you're going to be sending nudes in 2019.

To combat this, some people are encouraging everyone to register the copyrights on the naked selfies they take with the federal government. Again, the second you take it you own the copyright in it. But if you want to sue someone for copyright infringement, say if they take your nude selfie and post it to the internet without your permission, it needs to be registered with the government. As a precautionary measure, they say, get it registered so you can protect yourself in the future.

In theory this makes sense and it's very nice to lull ourselves into the idea that what we're doing doesn't involve risk because we have a way to sue the pants off someone if they wrong us. However the reality of The Law is not so. Just as a threshold matter, you'd need to have the funds to hire a lawyer to sue the pants off that person in the first place. Lawyers charge hundreds of dollars an hour. Just to get a lawyer to send a cease and desist letter to the perp to get the photos taken down will cost a few hundred, let alone the MONTHS it takes to build a case. So you can get those pics registered but unless you're a trust fund baby you're not gonna be able to do anything with that.

Say you are a trust fund baby, or you magically manage to find someone to represent you pro bono, there's also the issue that it's extremely easy to be stealthy on the internet, meaning finding the guy that posted the photos of you may be impossible. Even if you know you only sent that naked photo of yourself to one person and that guy must be the person that posted it, you'd have to also prove that to the court. Showing that someone is the owner of the account that posted the photo on a social media site or other platform isn't enough. Anyone can hack into an account and post a photo, theoretically, so you're not proving that it was actually the account owner who physically posted the photo. The best way to prove that someone posted your photo is to get ahold of the device that he used to post it and run some computer forensics to confirm that it was him. Getting your hands on said device runs up against constitutional protections from unlawful searches and seizures, and a copyright infringement claim isn't gonna get you a warrant to search his house and his computer.

AND (sorry this post is such a downer) even if you are able to prove he did it (maybe he comes forward and confesses everything) unless he's a trust fund baby, you're not going to get much out of him. That's called being "judgment proof" - where even if someone loses a civil case, it doesn't matter because they don't have the assets to pay the damages they owe. So you'll be out thousands of dollars in attorney fees and won't be able to recover any money for your trouble. To combat this, some people have taken to suing companies that allow revenge porn to be posted on their website. Unlike the guy who posted your pics without your permission, the website companies probably have some extra cash floating around for when you sue them. While having a copyright registration on your images may make a stronger case for getting your photos taken down, companies are still largely immune from liability for the content users post to their sites.

On top of all this, in order to register your photos for copyright, you need to send your nude selfies to the federal government. I don't know about you, but knowing that the feds have naked pics of me would not provide the peace of mind I'd be seeking out in registering the photos in the first place.

I'm not necessarily saying don't register copyright in your nudes. It can be an effective means of getting your photos off websites if you're able to contact the sites and tell them they are in violation of a federally registered copyright. What I am saying is that a registered copyright is not bulletproof.

What I am saying is that a registered copyright is not bulletproof.

And welcome, my friends, to the United States justice system, where there's not much justice for a lot of wrongs in the world. But luckily our conversation on protecting yourself from revenge porn doesn't have to end here. There are some very smart, savvy people doing a lot of work on this issue right now. What they've found is that one of the best ways to fight revenge porn is to pass laws about it. And they've done just that.


Courtesy of: Cyber Civil Rights Initiative

While a lot of states have passed their own revenge porn laws, and that's heartening, there is a growing push for a federal revenge porn law. As of right now, Kamala Harris is the only 2020 Democratic candidate that has pushed for such a law (this is not an endorsement of Kamala, I'm just sayin'). Passing a federal law would create uniformity and spread protection to everyone instead of the current piecemeal or nonexistent protections scattered throughout the states.

All this to say: registering the copyrights in your nudes is a fun idea but ultimately is not going to provide the protection from revenge porn that we all need.


What you can do instead:


[1] Check if your state has a comprehensive revenge porn law.

[2] If it does, read it and understand what it protects you from and what it does not. Look into what, if any, training is provided to law enforcement and judges on how to actually enforce the law. See if any orgs in your state are working on advocacy and training around revenge porn laws and volunteer your time.

[3] If your state does not have a comprehensive revenge porn law, push to get one passed. Call your local reps, show them what a model revenge porn law should look like, tell them why it's important to you as their constituent.

[4] Whether or not your state has a revenge porn law, call your federal congressional reps and tell them you want a federal law passed. Show them what a model revenge porn law looks like. Tell them why it's important that a federal law be passed. Hell, run for office yourself.

Most of these steps are as much work as, if not easier than, getting copyrights to your nudes registered with the federal government, and these actions will help push towards actual protection from revenge porn and online trolls.

Think I'm wrong? Feel free to drag me in the comments below. Or, better yet, write a rebuttal article and if it's any good I'll publish it. Email proselawblog@gmail.com.

Have any burning legal questions about pop culture or current events you want me to analyze? Pop it in the comments or slide into my DMs over on Instagram or Twitter.

sources: 

Linked throughout the article, plus:

[1] Copyright Law of the United States (it's 370 pages long--there's a reason why copyright law is so confusing).

[2] Cyber Civil Rights Initiative

[3] So many amazing women on twitter: Danielle Citron, Holly Jacobs, Mary Anne Franks, Carrie A. Goldberg, to name a few.

[4] Carrie A. Goldberg, Nobody's Victim (2019).


*DISCLAIMER* Nothing I write on this blog should ever be taken as legal advice. This entire project is just me applying my limited knowledge of The Law to the news and trying my best to analyze it all. I am not an expert in anything. I don’t even have my JD yet.

1 comment :

  1. Woman pornstars: we appreciate doggy type, for doggy type they'll be hammered rarely and throughout that some other parts of her also gets tensioned. Best free porn sites

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts

//]]>