back to article Lords try shoehorning law against revenge porn into justice bill

Two peers in the House of Lords have tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that will add criminal sanctions for so-called "revenge porn". Lib Dem Baroness Olly Grender and Lord Jonathan Marks asked for a clause to be added to the bill, which is currently working its way through Parliament, that would hand …

  1. AndyS

    We need more laws!

    I hear nearly one in seven murders are committed on a Tuesday, and yet there's no law against murdering people on a Tuesday! Does nobody care?!

    1. Alfred 2

      Re: We need more laws!

      This will probably be another ill thought out knee jerk reaction to an emerging problem.

      I wait to see some poor bod sent down for holiday snaps taken on a topless beach with (now ex) partner.

    2. Jim 59

      Re: We need more laws!

      Good point. This prospective law could be very handy the rich and famous wanting to censor unwanted images of themselves, under the disguise of a superficially worthy cause.

      That embarrassing picture of Boris Johnson and Dave Cameron at the Bullingdon club ? Will this make it illegal ?

      What about the recent video of the Coops banker buying crack ? Published without his permission surely ? Censor it.

      1. ratfox

        Read the article

        Actually, as explained in the article, this is not yet a crime. As opposed to murders, which are already a crime every day even though there are no specific laws for each day.

        1. BongoJoe

          Re: Read the article

          If it's not acually a crime it's actually a breach of copyright and could a hefty claim be made through the civil courts?

          If I made a such a picture of myself (don't worry, you're safe!) and then sent it to you then under copyright law the picture belongs to you but I still own the copyright and, thus, it can't be published without my consent.

          So, don't jail 'em shove them through the Civil Courts because the victim will perhaps be needing the cash when they've lost their jobs, current partners or whatever.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Read the article

            If I made a such a picture of mysel

            So if you made such a picture of your SWMBO and posted it after that this is fine because it was made by you and you own the copyright.

            This statute is something which is nearly impossible to get right. It will either be ineffective or will be overreaching and prohibiting stuff which should be allowed as whistleblowing or in the public interest.

            Example, let's say X takes pictures of her current partner Y taking part in some seriously dodgy activity. Let's say X and Y part ways. Let's say Y founds a charity to protect the victims of the dodgy activity (whichever they are - sheep, cattle, dog, footballer ex-wives, whatever). X taking the pictures and publishing them may actually be in the public interest. How do you distinguish that use case from the obvious one of "he/she dumped me, where did that footage of his underperformance in bed go".

          2. MrXavia

            Re: Read the article

            Its not a breach of copyright if the person sharing the image took the photo as usually they retains the copyright...

    3. Cynic_999

      Re: We need more laws!

      Because it is covered by a blanket law that prohibits murder on *any* day of the week. Posting sexually explicit photographs of adults who consented to the photograph being taken at the time is not however currently illegal unless you do it more than once (whereupon it becomes a "course of conduct" that could give rise to an harassment charge). But if this law gets passed, what about photographs that are highly embarrassing but *not* sexual? In that case it is legal to post such images even if the photograph was taken without consent, because it is only illegal to take non-consensual images of "private acts" being carried out in places where the subject had a "reasonable expectation of privacy".

    4. veti Silver badge

      Re: We need more laws!

      I'm pretty sure that murdering someone on a Tuesday is precisely as illegal, under the same laws, as murdering them on a Monday.

      Unless what you want to see is a blanket ban on uploading any porn to the internet, that's not an argument you want to go down.

  2. John G Imrie

    Punisment to fit the crime

    Watch as the redit crowd get to denigrate a picture of the perpetrators private bits.

  3. FlatSpot

    Happy Snapper

    "The peers said that people charged under their proposed amendment would have had to believe, at the time the picture was taken, that the image was to remain private."

    So how are you going to prove this, the absence of a release form signed by all parties? Guilty as charged...

    1. James 51

      Re: Happy Snapper

      This isn't as fuzzy as I tried to make the new girl feel welcome and I got slapped with a sexual harrisment charge. If there isn't a contract and payment it's pretty obvious that they are suppose to remain private.

      1. Dr. Mouse

        Re: Happy Snapper

        Not necessarily.

        I'm only playing devils advocate here, but what about a situation where two people meet on a drunken night out and decide filming themselves and posting it on the interwebz is a good idea. The next day, the one who did the posting is cuffed because the other one regrets (or is informed by friends because they couldn't remember doing it).

        Now we may be getting into the realms of consent and alcohol here, but in this case there is no contract, they both did a stupid thing, but the one who's account was used to post the material becomes guilty of a criminal offence. There was no contract, no money changed hands, but there was consent.

        All I'm saying is it could be a lot harder to decide whether a party expected it to remain private or not.

        Now, in most cases, I would say that if the video was made between two consenting adults in a relationship, in a private place, and the video was then posted after the pair split up, it is likely that there was an expectation of privacy. But there will be situations where it is harder to prove.

        1. James 51

          Re: Happy Snapper

          In that scenairo you'd hope the police and the courts would exercise some common sense. Getting the photos taken down the next day would be a good start.

          1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: Happy Snapper

            Quote "In that scenairo you'd hope the police and the courts would exercise some common sense."

            I think I just fell off my chair laughing.

            The law is'nt about common sense, its about getting the law on the books in order to make the politician look good( just before they trouser another brown envelope from a lobby group.. alledgedly)

            The police and the courts will enforce the law because its their job, and will catch all the flack as soon as some poor innocent sod gets caught with his pants down...

          2. teebie

            Re: Happy Snapper

            "In that scenairo you'd hope the police and the courts would exercise some common sense."

            Good luck with that.

            The law should be based on "I'm sure everyone in the legal system will behave themselves". Just ask Paul Chambers, or Andrew Robert Holland (the tiger video) or the lawyer dragged through the courts for owning perfectly legal fisting pornography, or...

      2. Cynic_999

        Re: Happy Snapper

        You may *think* that sexual images of partners are "obviously" intended to remain private, but you'd be wrong for a small but significant proportion of the population. Some people go "dogging" for no payment, and apparently want other people to observe their sexual exploits, and other perform sexually on webcam to complete strangers for no remuneration.

    2. LucreLout

      Re: Happy Snapper

      <i>So how are you going to prove this, the absence of a release form signed by all parties? Guilty as charged...


      The real question, with anonymising proxies, TOR etc, how are you going to prove who posted it?

      An image once in my custody may not remain so should my computer be lost, sold, stolen, or hacked. It's not like there aren't millions of compromised machines out there in the wild. Oh... wait...

      (fail icon for lib dems, not post to which I replied)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Happy Snapper

        "An image once in my custody may not remain so should my computer be lost, sold, stolen, or hacked. It's not like there aren't millions of compromised machines out there in the wild. Oh... wait..."

        and the previous call about the courts and police showing some common sense is just waiting for things to go wrong. While the intent behind this is hard to fault, the law itself will almost certainly prove to be a joke. No sanctions of note for misuse of this law, no sensible penalties for those who post material found on lost / sold / stolen / hacked machines, and as far as I can see no sanctions against the individual police offices, prosecutors and judges involved in a case should they choose to not show the common sense this sort of issue obviously requires.

        As for LibDem fail - compared with their straightforward lies on tuition fees , this is at least on the same planet as something justifiable. Still a fail though, you're right.

  4. Suricou Raven

    I can see this backfiring.

    Always trouble ahead when the crime is based on what the defendant 'believes.' Rather fuzzy and hard to prove.

    An easier solution in my view would be societal change. Stop caring! The internet has plenty of boobs, yours are not special.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: I can see this backfiring.

      "An easier solution in my view would be societal change. Stop shooting porn! The internet has plenty of boobs, yours are not special."


      1. Suricou Raven

        Re: I can see this backfiring.

        Not going to happen. Human like sex. Especially true of emotionally-limited teenagers.

  5. Jason 41


    We are constantly being told that Govt's (especially ours in the UK it seems) are slipping extra clauses / amendments in on the quiet.

    It usually seems to be yet another further encroachment on any freedoms we thought we had the day before

    This amendment seems to have a pretty narrow focus so maybe not the worst thing to get passed?

    1. Cynic_999

      Re: However

      Narrow focus? Are you certain? Have you seen the exact wording of the proposed new law to ensure that it does not encompass a far wider variety of acts than the one being touted? Many of our recent laws were passed on the back of one set of circumstances said to be the reason the law was needed, but are now routinely used to criminalise a completely different set of circumstances.

  6. James 51

    This issue should have been tackled years ago. It is a form of attack and the only reason not to pass it is if it's going to be a mess like the dangerous dogs act and that would only be to give mp's time to come up with something effective.

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    It is not only the images that are the problem

    It is the often very lewd comments that go alongside it.

    all sorts of claims like 'they suck in Bed', 'her t**s are false', 'his p***s is tiny' etc are made in order to embarrass the person in the picture.

    Added together this is not nice at all especially if you happen to be on the receiving end.

    The sad thing is that any court case will give the whole episode a lot more publicity that the original posting would have gotten. The Streisand Effect at work here.

    I'd like for the subject of the posting to be able to remain anonymous like the victims in Rape cases.

    As for pictures of boobs on a topless beach then that is in effect a public place and there can be no expectation of privacy whereas pictures of the ex in her dominatrix outfit might be very detrimental to their career esp if they were a teacher of under 16's.

    Context is all important.

    Are those a pair of chinook's I hear approaching?

    1. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: It is not only the images that are the problem

      Context is all important.

      So, to put it in context, someone points a camera at me while I am in a NSFW way and I allow it. Why would I have any expectation that this essentially permanent image would never be seen by anyone other than myself and the person taking the picture? What could possibly go wrong? Yes, posting of such a picture has great potential to detrimentally affect one's life. To me, this is analogous to posting one's most intimate details to a social networking site. You are quite naive if you think that just because someone else is telling you that it will never be seen by anyone else that you should have any expectation that it will be the case.

      If it is predictable based on a very basic understanding of human nature that something will happen, then you should have no expectation that it will not. I am not defending the actions of individuals posting their exes' pics, but this really looks to me like trying to pin the blame for someone's bad decisions (allowing the picture to be made) on someone else (the person posting the picture).

  8. GrumpyMiddleAgedGuy

    If you want to prevent the possibility of having a naked photo of you on the Internet, then don't pose for it.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Graham Marsden
        Thumb Down

        @Arnaut the less - Re: "then don't pose for it."

        > Pressure on girls to produce these pictures or have them taken can be very great. It isn't reasonable to expect teenagers and young women to resist it; some sort of law is needed to protect them.


        What is needed is *education* not *legislation*, just as we need to teach boys that they are *not* all "asking for it" not to teach girls that they shouldn't dress in a "provocative manner" in order to prevent themselves from being raped.

        And that is why I downvoted you.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good news

    Presumably this means that all the serious crimes have been solved.

  10. Frank Fisher
    Thumb Down

    Evil, or just stupid?

    Are these people idiots? I can see so many problems with this law, apart from the disproportionate horror of locking people up for clicking "Submit". How is a court going to establish what the tangled nature of consent was at the time? How will they decide if consent was withdrawn, and that was clearly communicated? if the pics were posted when all was rosy, and then consent was withdrawn, does it become an offence to refuse to delete them? What if the images were posted somewhere were they CANNOT be deleted? What if the uploaded has forgotten their passwords? What if they forgot where they posted them? What if a thousand people repost?

    Stupid damned idea. No doubt it will become law.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Evil, or just stupid?

      Obviously, you need to get a signed consent form from everyone in the video, stating explicitly that it's going to be published on an unspecified number of smutty websites and everyone concerned is OK with that.

      Equally obviously, the real goal here is to outlaw almost all currently existing pr0n (for which this paperwork doesn't exist, because no-one knew they needed it before), thereby creating a huge boom in the market for new pr0n. The last time the industry had a bonanza like this was when rules were introduced requiring producers to certify the age of all participants. Now that one's worked its way through, there's a large bank of pre-existing pr0n that satisfies that requirement - how to get everyone to scrap that and order all new grumbles? Bingo!

  11. h3

    I thought whoever took the photo had the copyright, If you don't want to risk this don't let people do it in the first place.

    The government seems to want everything to be dealt with like a business so this sort of thing is similar to liquidation of assets.

    They keep saying they cannot do anything with copyright but they obviously can if they can do stuff like this.

  12. Pypes

    1 year in jail for what essentially amounts to publishing photos without a model release form. Oh how reasonable and well thought out this law sounds.

    Combine this with a nebulous definition of pornography and the potential for "collateral damage" is huge. Re-post some bikini pics of a friend-of-a-friend you font on facebook? Your nicked son. Girl friend eating a cadburys flake in the traditional manner, better be careful, if she leaves you your fucked.

    etc etc.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's an awful lot of ignorance around this. A model release form is only a requirement if the images are used for commercial purposes and the subject posed 'for a consideration'. That consideration could be as trivial as the photographer bought them a coffee/drink or provided a CD of the images.

    What about when the subject posed willingly and was happy for the images to be shown then changes their mind?

    The proposal is completely unworkable and will only add another stick with which to beat photographers.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1


      Oh, come! It's pretty easy to dodge that stick if you're an ethical and decent photographer. The courts are perfectly able to distinguish between a revenge porn posting (as someone above said, usually with vile comments attached) and a proper photo shoot upload, or public place photography.

      In general, the computer types from which El Reg draws its readership like to think of the law in terms of "if this then guilty", and then to highlight the ridiculous corner cases and cry "Foul!". In practice, the law is mediated by many and disparate real people, who investigate, decide whether or not to prosecute, and then take into account the individual case circumstances before convicting.

      As a pretty good example, I give you Clive Ponting, whose admitted actions were absolutely a breach of the Official Secrets Act, and yet was acquitted.

      1. The Mole

        Re: Stick

        And as a counter post I'd point out Paul Chambers ( who got convicted of sending menacing emails for a joke on twitter. It was eventually overturned on the THIRD appeal but it is cases like that why the majority of the El Reg readership wants laws that don't require sensible people to selectively enforce them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stick

          All laws require sensible people to enforce them, which is why in the US there are ridiculous sentences for apparently obvious crimes (you can legally shoot unarmed black people but go to prison for life for repeated minor shoplifting); weirdos become lawyers. It turns out to be very difficult to write laws that work like well designed software, but then look at how much software isn't that well designed.

          As you (correctly in mhy view) observe, the important thing is to ensure that the legal profession is full of comparatively sensible people. Though there are exceptions as in all jobs, this is usually the case in the UK. The fact is that Chambers was a corner case. I'm sorry for the guy, but I'm also sorry for cyclists killed by truck drivers. No legal system can get it right 100% of the time.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Graham Marsden

          @Arnaut the less Re: Stick

          > It isn't actually that hard to write into a law that it applies to the posting of pictures and comments intended to insult, humiliate or expose the victim to ridicule

          Except, if you have any familiarity with the way such things are written (cf the Extreme Pornography laws) that is *not* what happens. Instead we get some vague and entirely subjective definition written into the law and then the mess is left for the Courts to sort out.

          What this means, of course, is that you probably won't actually *know* if you're breaking the law until you find yourself arrested and accused.

    2. breakfast Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      What about when the subject was asleep half uncovered by the duvet and their creeper partner took their picture?

      What if both people believed the pictures were kept private but somebody else stole them off a hard drive, phone etc?

      There are some pretty clear cut cases here too. Do people not deserve protection in those kinds of case?

  14. Paul 164

    An easier solution...

    ... DON'T send naked or pornographic pictures or videos in the first place!!!

    What happens if the photo's are stolen?

  15. Lionel Baden

    encrypted chats

    Try out Wickr, or something else like its Ilk. :)

  16. earl grey

    what if they're fake?

    Yes, so you attached her head to a sheep. Is it still revenge porn? She attached his head to a shrimp. Is it even porn at all?

    1. Spleen

      Re: what if they're fake?

      On the Internet you can guarantee that someone will consider it porn.

    2. Zog_but_not_the_first

      Re: what if they're fake?

      A human-headed shrimp? Looking to pull a mussel, no doubt.

      I know, I know >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    quick google indicates kiss & tell and sex tape laws are a bit spotty, but as its plainly revenge, often posted to sites dedicated exclusively to revenge smut.

    how about - article 8 human rights act, harrassment, breach of contract of confidentiality, defamation etc.

  18. breakfast Silver badge
    Big Brother

    A counter-service?

    I guess the ideal situation would be for prospective partners to be able to find out whether someone was the kind of person who posted revenge porn. That would work as a fairly clear deterrent to them and the expectation of never getting laid again would possibly stand to deter the poster too. If it didn't, stop them, it would perhaps serve to remove that particularly tiresome type of boor from the gene pool, which would be no bad thing for the species as a whole.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: A counter-service?

      Yeah, great idea! Then we can have revenge-revenge-porn listings, where a disgruntled ex accuses you of posting revenge porn even though all you ever posted was a photo of the two of you, fully dressed, with your arms linked together in a pub car park.

      Of course, then we can have another service for complaints about those people. And then it's turtles all the way down.

  19. Gis Bun


    I think the law in some form should be in place.

    Which reminds me. If not passed, will people go around with contracts that state something like:

    "On July 2 at 17:31:12 on Fleet Street in London, I Lindsey Lohan, knowingly posed nude for Justin Bieber. He may not post any pictures [or modifications there of] on the Internet, in an email, in a text message, on TV, in a book, in a newspaper, in a magazine or similar media without my knowledge."

    Bieber's version: "I promise to do nothing - at any time - because I'm good at it."

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eye for an eye

    Can't we just have a public website where the person who posted the material has to appear naked (no photoshop allowed) along with their full name and the town they live in? Oh and throw in a fine of £10K or something. A year in prison costs the tax payer a lot of money, can't we just do public humiliation instead as it's cheaper?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personally, I'd like to see a requirement that you cannot post a photo of someone else online without their specific permission. Or at least a legal requirement that you must remove it is requested.

    That should be enough to shut Facebook down.

    1. Diogenes

      We already do this at school

      and it is right royal pain in the...

      We have to identify all the people in the photo, search for their consent forms , if students , and if parents are in the shot we have to contact them for permission. - There is a prompt on our website which reminds of of this every time we we put a post (we use a departmental supplied, and compulsory to use CMS)

      Its not worth me loosing my job over - so everybody who sends me photos to include on the school website has to certify they have permission from everybody in the shot in the email. I post very very very few student photos for this reason

  22. flearider

    if you let someone does it matter who take a pic of you in what ever form .. it becomes theres to do with as they will ..just because your loved up does not mean you have lost your mind .. you have excepted that there taking a pic ..

    so just don't do it simple you have them take a pic or do your own prawn film .. at some point it's going on the net .. shit happens live with it ..

  23. Old Handle

    While I'm not completely opposed to some type of law on the subject, I think it needs to be focused on the revenge aspect. Suppose A hooks up with B and then posts an intimate picture taken during the encounter with the caption "Hottie I banged last night!". B may well be distressed by that, and A is almost certainly an asshole. But it's not revenge porn. What's missing is any clear evidence of maliciousness.

    Some might say that kind of behavior is bad enough it still deserves to be punished, but I think the bar needs to be set higher to avoid catching people who really didn't mean any harm.

    1. veti Silver badge

      You're getting dangerously subtle, there. Yes, the situation is different - but in all probability it needs to be covered under the same law, because there's no hard and clear dividing line between the two, there'll be a continuinuinuum fading from "gloating asshole" to "outright porn".

      When does the image become porn? Can a simple mugshot be porn? Or a full body portrait, depending on what the subject is doing/wearing? A decent silk could argue that, in the scenario you describe, the asshole is being "malicious" in the legal sense ("in the knowledge of... lack of power and with knowledge that it... would be likely to cause injury"). How would you draw a hard legal line?

      I'd think a blanket law should cover the whole range, but include penalties for frivolous or malicious complaints, and let the courts decide case by case.

      1. Old Handle

        It's not the porn part I'm questioning, it's the revenge. It could be an orgy with creative uses for vegetables, and it still wouldn't be revenge porn unless it's posted for revenge. Unless that element is required, it's just yet another example of a new law being sold for one purpose when it will inevitably be used for something else.

        Most crimes require an element of intent. I really doesn't think this is such a hard thing to prove. Was it posted right after a breakup? Probably revenge pron. Was it posted with nasty comments and identifying information? Probably revenge pron. Was it posted on a website explicitly for revenge pron? Probably revenge pron.

  24. Allan George Dyer

    Use the Data Protection Laws

    The data protection principles already cover this:

    Fair collection: no secret filming,

    Use of personal data: consensual bedroom shots assumed to be for private enjoyment of participants*

    Duration of retention: Not kept longer than necessary. When the relationship ends, the original purpose (shared enjoyment by participants in the relationship) has ended, so the data must be destroyed*.

    Security: protection from unauthorised access. If you're keeping the pics, it's your responsibility to make sure they don't "accidentally" leak onto the internet

    * unless there is another agreement.

    There are grey areas (topless beach is a public place, but a deserted beach plus a telephoto lens?), and things to be worked out (can you secretly film, then ask for consent?), but it fits, and simply brings more personal data under the same protection.

  25. Dan Paul

    All people reserve the rights to...

    their own image in private. In public, all bets are off. If you take a picture of a PERSON in that circumstance as opposed to INANIMATE OBJECTS, the person needs to give you permission; either direct or implied or delete the picture.

    The photographer and the law has to use common sense.

    If the subject is naked in their bedroom, they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, in the back yard, less so but still on private property. In either case the images are private and should remain the property of the subject. The use of a telephoto lens or drone or other surveilliance does not protect the photograper.

    Put that same subject naked or topless on a public beach or drunk on the streets and you should be able to publish anything.

    That's all that is needed here, common sense; not another law.

  26. asiaseen

    Politicans' sense of proportion

    " the posting of explicit images online without permission from the people depicted “an appalling crime”.

    But authorising the deaths of thousands of people through indulging in an illegal war by a certain ex-prime minister is not considered a crime at all.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good for the perpetrators too

    There are cringe worthy and cruel things I did, mostly before I was 22, that still make my skin crawl 30 years later if I think of them.

    Posting your ex to the webs might seem like a good idea to quite a lot of people when they are drunk and 18, but even 5 years later 99% of them will wish they just didn't do it.

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