These days, it is more and more common for a client to call and tell us that a former partner or an ex-lover of theirs is posting, sharing, discriminating, texting or in some other way sending nude, naked, intimate photographs or videos of them. This is done without the client’s permission. Sometimes these videos and photographs are posted on anonymous websites. Other times they are sent to a client’s new partner, spouse, parent or employer.
Revenge porn is a type of nonconsensual pornography (NCP), in which sexually explicit images of someone else are distributed in order to humiliate and harm the subject of the images. In many but not all cases, the person distributing the pornographic images is an ex-partner (hence the element of targeted revenge), but NCP can also occur when hackers break into strangers’ computers and post images of people they don’t know. NCP is also referred to as “cyber exploitation.”
In New Jersey, nonconsensual pornography, whether accomplished by an ex-partner or a stranger, is a crime. It is also a serious crime in New Jersey for anyone to disclose a recording, however made, showing another individual’s intimate parts or the individual engaged in sexual conduct in a private setting without the individual’s consent to the disclosure. ” (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:14-9 (1)(c).) For purposes of the New Jersey law, “disclose” means sell, manufacture, give, provide, lend, trade, mail, deliver, publish, distribute, circulate, exhibit, advertise, or offer.” (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:14-9 (1)(c).)
If you ARE the copyright holder, you may be protected by a federal law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Under the DMCA, it is illegal for websites to post copyrighted photos without permission. To have your copyrighted photo removed from the internet, you must send a notice of copyright infringement (an official notice that tells the website it has violated federal copyright law).
You can send notices of copyright infringement to:
Some websites claim that they can help you remove the photographs and videos for a cost. This is a scam. Unfortunately, some websites have made deals with companies that offer to remove photos for a fee, and even allow these companies to advertise on their page in exchange for part of their removal fees—several hundred dollars in some cases. Some websites have posted advertisements for lawyers who do not even exist. There is no guarantee the photos will either be taken down or will stay down.
You do not need to have a special relationship with the person who posted your photo in order to press charges. Also, you can press charges even if you do not have proof that your ex-partner is the person who posted your photo. For example, even if the photos were posted with an anonymous name, if you only shared them with one person, and the prosecutor (the government lawyer handling your case) decides your case should go forward, s/he or the police can request a subpoena (court order requiring someone to provide information). The subpoena would require the internet service provider that hosts the website to provide information about the person who posted the photo. If found guilty, the person could be ordered to pay a fine up to $30,000 and sentenced to three to five years in prison. Also, if you do not have copyright ownership of the photos in question, you can ask the prosecutor to ask the court to transfer copyright ownership of the photos of you.