A Breach of Trust: Fighting Nonconsensual Pornography

Author:Ari Ezra Waldman
Position:Associate Professor of Law
Pages:709-733
SUMMARY

Nonconsensual pornography, also known as "revenge porn," is the distribution of sexually graphic or intimate images of individuals without their consent. As scholars have argued, it is, and should be treated as, a crime. But even with a national law criminalizing nonconsensual pornography, attorneys have to get creative to provide necessary civil remedies to victims in need. This Essay argues... (see full summary)

 
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709
A Breach of Trust:
Fighting Nonconsensual Pornography
Ari Ezra Waldman*
ABSTRACT: Nonconsensual pornography, also known as “revenge porn,” is
the distribution of sexually graphic or intimate images of individuals without
their consent. As scholars have argued, it is, and should be treated as, a crime.
But even with a national law criminalizing nonconsensual pornography,
attorneys have to get creative to provide necessary civil remedies to victims in
need. This Essay argues that practitioners should add the tort of breach of
confidentiality to their arsenal of tools to fight nonconsensual pornography.
Presenting evidence from, among other sources, a series of first-person
interviews with victims of cyberharassment, this Essay shows that
nonconsensual pornography does violence to essential social norms of trust at
the core of social interaction. As such, the tort of breach of confidentiality,
which focuses on remedying breaches of trust, should be deployed to help
victims of “revenge porn” obtain justice.
I. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................. 710
II. REVENGE PORN AS SOCIAL HARM ................................................. 714
A. THE NARRATIVE OF INDIVIDUAL HARM .................................... 714
B. REVENGE PORNS SOCIAL HARM: A BREACH OF TRUST .............. 716
III. WEAPONS TO FIGHT REVENGE PORN ............................................ 719
A. PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF PRIVATE FACTS .................................... 720
B. COPYRIGHT LAW ..................................................................... 721
C. BREACH OF CONFIDENTIALITY .................................................. 722
1. Confidentiality Jurisprudence ...................................... 723
* Associate Professor of Law; Director, Innovation Center for Law and Technology, New
York Law School; Founder and Director, Tyler Clementi Institute for Internet Safety, New York
Law School. Affiliate Scholar, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University.
Ph.D., Columbia University; J.D., Harvard Law School. The central thesis of this Essay was
discussed at the First Annual Internet Safety Conference at New York Law School on October 3,
2015. The author would like to thank Danielle Keats Citron, Woodrow Hartzog, Frank Pasquale,
Ann Bartow, Mary Anne Franks, Carrie Goldberg, Elisa D’Amico, Mark Hatzenbuehler, and
Jacqueline Beauchere for their support, feedback, and commitment to internet saf ety. Essential
research assistance was provided by Jeffrey Saavedra.
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710 IOWA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 102:709
2. Applying Confidentiality Law to Revenge Porn .......... 727
3. Benefits of the Approach .............................................. 729
4. Limitations ..................................................................... 731
IV. CONCLUSION ................................................................................... 732
I. INTRODUCTION
Nonconsensual pornography, also known as “revenge porn,”1 is the
distribution of sexually graphic or intimate images of individuals without their
consent.2 It can have devastating effects: Victims experience severe anxiety
and depression and they are often placed in physical danger. They lose their
jobs and have difficulty finding new ones. Many have to recede from online
life, move far away, and even change their names to escape revenge porn’s
long shadow.3 In response, 35 states and the District of Columbia have
criminalized the practice,4 with legislation introduced in several others.5 Only
1. The essential evil of revenge porn is not the motive animating the behavior, but the invasion
of privacy and the transformation of victims into objects without their consent. See Mary Anne Franks,
How to Defeat ‘Revenge Porn’: First, Recognize It’s About Privacy, Not Revenge, HUFFINGTON POST (June 22,
2015, 8:22 AM), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-anne-franks/how-to-defeat-revenge-porn_b_
7624900.html. For ease of comprehension, I will use “revenge porn,” “nonconsensual pornography,”
and “cyberexploitation” interchangeably. The latter two are, however, far more appropriate terms.
2. Danielle Keats Citron & Mary Anne Franks, Criminalizing Revenge Porn, 49 WAKE FOREST
L. REV. 345, 346 (2014).
3. See DANIELLE KEATS CITRON, HATE CRIMES IN CYBERSPACE 6–10 (2014) (discussing
some of the devastating personal effects of cyberharassment).
4. ALASKA STAT. ANN. § 11.61.120 (West 2015); ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 13-1425 (Supp.
2015); ARK. CODE ANN. § 5-26-314 (Supp. 2015); CAL. PENAL CODE § 647 (West Supp. 2016);
COLO. REV. STAT. ANN. § 18-7-107 (West Supp. 2015); CONN. GEN. STAT. ANN. § 53a-189a (West
2012 & Supp. 2016); DEL. CODE ANN. tit. 11, § 1335 (2015); D.C. CODE ANN. §§ 22-3051 to 22-
3057 (West 2016); FLA. STAT. § 784.049 (2015); GA. CODE ANN. § 16-11-90 (West Supp. 2015);
HAW. REV. STAT. § 711-1110.9 (2014); IDAHO CODE ANN. § 18-6609 (West 2016); 720 ILL. COMP.
STAT. ANN. § 5/11-23.5 (2014); KAN. STAT. ANN. § 21-6101(8) (West 2016); LA. REV. STAT. ANN.
§ 14:283.2 (2004 & Supp. 2016); ME. REV. STAT. ANN. tit. 17-A, § 511-A (West Supp. 2015); MD.
CODE ANN., CRIM. LAW § 3-809 (West Supp. 2015); MICH. COMP. LAWS ANN. §§ 750.145e,
750.145f (West 2016); MINN. STAT. ANN. § 617.261 (West 2016); NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 200.780
(West 2015); N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 644:9-a (2016); N.J. STAT. ANN. § 2C:14-9 (West 2015);
N.M. STAT. ANN. § 30-37A-1 (West 2016); N.C. GEN. STAT. § 14-190.5A (2015); N.D. CENT. CODE
§ 12.1-17-07.2 (Supp. 2015); OKLA. STAT. ANN. tit. 21, § 1040.13b (West 2016); OR. REV. STAT.
§ 163.472 (2015); 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 3131 (2015); TENN. CODE ANN. § 39-17-318 (West 2016);
TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 21.16 (West Supp. 2015); UTAH CODE ANN. § 76-5b-203 (West 2016);
VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 13, § 2606 (Supp. 2015); VA. CODE ANN. § 18.2-386.2 (2014); WASH. REV.
CODE ANN. § 9A.86.010 (West 2016); WIS. STAT. § 942.09 (2013–2014).
5. Legislation has been introduced in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, and
South Carolina. See, e.g., Lana Jones, Bill Would Make ‘Revenge Porn’ a Crime in Massachusetts, CBS
BOS. (June 5, 2015, 1:52 PM), http://boston.cbslocal.com/2015/06/05/bill-would-make-
revenge-porn-a-crime-in-massachusetts; Tammy Mutasa, ‘Revenge Porn’ Bill Passes Unanimously in
Kentucky House, WLWT5 (Feb. 15, 2016, 11:48 PM), http://www.wlwt.com/news/-Revenge-porn-
bill-passes-unanimously-in-Kentucky-House/38013094; Collin Reischman, Engler Files ‘Revenge

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