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Rights to Revenge Porn

keyboard.PNGRevenge porn, also known as "sextortion," involves exposing or distributing sexually explicit images or video of someone without that person's consent. Oftentimes, it takes the form of blackmail with one party threatening to release the sexual content unless the person depicted does or does not do something. Rihanna and Kim Kardashian are just two of countless celebrities who have faced revenge porn threats. Celebrities are not the only people who are subject to revenge porn though.

In the recent New Jersey case of A.B.A. v. T.A., an Appeals Court looked at revenge porn as a legal issue. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was blackmailing him with tapes of their sexual history, which included videos of intercourse with one another as well as with other individuals. According to court documents, the defendant and plaintiff were once married and had recordings of intercourse in their marital home. When they later began divorce proceedings, the defendant began threatening to release the videos because of disagreements on how to parent their two children. These threats included distributing them to the plaintiff's employer and to the Wall Street Journal. Defendant also later demanded that plaintiff pay for certain childcare expenses totaling approximately $31,000.00 and $30,000.00 in attorney's fees.

The court found the defendant guilty of criminal coercion and harassment, but paused at the issue of copyright of the tapes. The lower court ordered that the defendant's copyrights of the video be turned over to the plaintiff. The appellate court however disagreed, citing that copyright is an area of law that is traditionally left for federal courts. In essence, the New Jersey state courts do not have the right to rule on copyright law. Thus, the defendant retained copyrights to the tapes. Despite some confusion and clerical errors in the issuance of temporary restraining orders, the court upheld the final restraining order against defendant.

This case illuminates a few key findings about revenge porn:

  • It can fall under the category of criminal coercion and harassment.

  • It supports the issuance of a restraining order in some cases.

  • Copyright of any revenge porn is a federal issue and cannot be determined at a state level.

With the ease of wide dissemination that the internet offers, blackmailing threats are more prevalent. For more questions regarding revenge porn and harassment, contact legal counsel.

Angela Yu is a New Jersey and New York attorney with a multifaceted practice area focusing in corporate, real estate and general contract law. She uses her interest in real life application of the law to author articles and other scholarship on a broad range of cutting-edge legal and business topics. Ms. Yu is a published legal author and holds a J.D. and M.B.A. from Rutgers School of Law and Rutgers Business School. Neither she nor Mike Farhi provides legal advice on this website. This blog post and any blog posts do not constitute legal advice.

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