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Movie studios attack revenge porn law

BBC News BBC News 4/04/2016
Anonymous girl on a phone © Thinkstock Anonymous girl on a phone

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has opposed draft "revenge porn" legislation that is being considered in Minnesota.

"Revenge porn" broadly describes the act of publishing explicit images of someone without their consent.

The MPAA said the Minnesota draft law could restrict the publication of "items of legitimate news, commentary, and historical interest".

But supporters of the proposal said its reach was "plainly legitimate".

Revenge porn commonly refers to the sharing of intimate images after the end of a relationship, but is also used in a broader sense to describe any publication of explicit images without consent, for example when private photographs of a celebrity are leaked online.

A number of countries and US states have introduced legislation that prohibits the practice, but there is no US-wide federal law on the subject.

Opponents of revenge porn legislation have argued that some of the new laws are too broad in scope, and that existing copyright, communication and harassment laws sufficiently cover the subject.

'Intent to harass'

The MPAA, which represents six major Hollywood film studios, said the Minnesota law could "limit the distribution of a wide array of mainstream, constitutionally protected material".

It cited images of Holocaust victims and prisoners at Abu Ghraib as examples of images depicting nudity which are shared without the subjects' consent.

The MPAA called for the legislation to clarify that images shared without consent only broke the law if they were shared with an "intent to harass".

In a statement, the organisation said: "The MPAA opposes online harassment in all forms. While we agree with the aims... we are concerned that the current version of the bill is written so broadly that it could have a chilling effect on mainstream and constitutionally-protected speech."

But the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, which has campaigned for revenge porn to be made illegal, said an "intent to harass" provision would render the law "incoherent".

"It would allow people to distribute private, sexually explicit material of no public concern unless it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that their motive was to harass," the organisation said in its response to the MPAA.

"The motive of a distributor has no bearing on whether the material is newsworthy or a matter of public concern.

"A photograph of a dirty restaurant kitchen is not rendered less newsworthy because the distributor intends to harass the restaurant owner."

If passed, the Minnesota law would become effective on 1 August.

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