In what could be considered one of the first “pre-revenge porn” rulings ever, a court ordered Tuesday that a German man, upon his ex-partner’s request, delete all erotic or nude digital photos and videos in his possession that feature her.
Despite that the man had displayed no intention to share the intimate material, online or otherwise, his ex sought legal action when she requested that they be erased and he refused, according to the German edition of The Local. The plaintiff did acknowledge her consent to be in the photos and videos at the time they were taken, and even said she had snapped and recorded some herself.
Still, she wanted the material deleted, and her ex said no. So she took him to court and won.
In this ruling, it was the German court’s view that the plaintiff’s ownership rights to the material were higher than those of the photographer, and since she requested that her images be deleted, that the request should be granted. Any fully clothed or non-erotic pictures, the court decided, did not need to be taken from his possession, given that they possess “little, if any capacity” to compromise the claimant, The Local reported.
Whether this ruling by the Lahn-Dill region court in Hesse will act as precedent for copycat cases forthcoming in Germany or elsewhere remains to be seen.
The legal action in the Hesse case, however, was unique from typical “revenge porn” cases in the United States. (“Revenge porn” is the broad term given to pornographic material of someone shared online without that person’s consent, generally by an ex.) Typically, legal action against revenge porn is pursued once material has been spread without the agreement or knowledge of the person featured in the photos or videos. Laws in place, like the ones in California and Arizona, can result in either fines or jail time. California’s “revenge porn” law, the first of its kind, was enacted last year to augment legislation that its state and New Jersey both have to prevent the spreading of photos or videos that were captured or obtained without the subject’s permission.
Other states have passed similar measures this year to fight revenge porn, including Georgia, Idaho, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
A revenge porn suit of sorts in Texas this March also resulted in the awarding of $500,000 in damages when it was decided that a woman’s ex had deliberately posted private photos and videos online to harass her.
Back on the European front, the Hesse case is interesting in light of the recent European Court of Justice’s ruling that declared the “right to be forgotten.” The decision may force Google and other search properties to remove links to private information upon request by the subject, making it possible, theoretically, for Europeans to distance themselves from online material they’d rather represent them.
Though the ECJ rules that links to your material should be removed from Web properties, going further and ordering that private, offline stashes of content be erased, as in the Hesse case, is a new territory.