Is It Legal To Distribute Revenge Porn?

Sometimes we do things in the heat of the moment that we end up regretting. Home-made pornography is often one of those things. There's nothing wrong with making a recording of your lustful antics with your partner or sending a nudie to your long-distance lover — but if the relationship goes sour, that content may end up plastered on the internet for the world to see. Surely distributing this content is an illegal act. Or is it?

Revenge porn picture from Shutterstock

Back in the good old days, jilted lovers employed moderately harmless methods to exact revenge such as keying cars, burning clothes and hacking off genitals... Okay, the last one isn't so harmless, but the point is it was a simpler time back then, before the internet gave crazy exes an outlet to shame and humiliate their former lovers in the form of "revenge porn".

As the name suggests, revenge porn is created when intimate sexual images and videos that were meant to be kept private are uploaded onto the internet by someone as an act of revenge against an ex-lover as well as by others who want to cause harm to an individual. Recently, hundreds of Australian women found themselves to be victims of revenge porn with their intimate private photos appearing on 4Chan.

Having this kind of material out floating around on the internet could be extremely detrimental to a person's reputation, employment prospects and mental health.

Technology has made it so much easier to capture this kind of content and even easier to disseminate it, so it's no wonder revenge porn is on the rise. But what are the legalities surrounding it? Are you committing a crime if you post photos of your ex-girlfriend engaging in sexual acts with you just to get her back for breaking up with you?

Sort of.

According to lawfirm Slater+Gordon, under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, it is illegal to use a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence and this covers posting revenge porn online. You could go to jail for a maximum of three years if the crime was committed against an adult and that penalty goes up to a maximum of 15 years if the victim is a minor. A bill has now been introduced into parliament to amend the Commonwealth Criminal Code that would increase the jail time for those that who do distribute revenge porn.

Unfortunately, laws from different states are inconsistent, which makes it hard to get the offending material off websites and holding uploaders responsible. For example, in Victoria, under the Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Bill 2014 section 41DB and 41DA, it is illegal to distribute intimate images of another person without that person's consent. Even threatening to do so is a crime. But in New South Wales, the Crimes Act 1990 section 578C, it is illegal to publish indecent articles which includes "matter to be read or looked at", excluding actual pornography that is deemed legal. That's pretty damn vague.

South Australia provides a bit more clarity on this issue with its Summary Offences Act 1953 section 26C stipulating that it's a crime to distribute invasive images of another person without their consent.

As for the other states and territories, there are no specific laws against the distribution of sexual content with malicious intent so it would fall back onto the Commonwealth Criminal Code, which has been criticised for not being clear enough on how it applies specifically to revenge porn.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


Comments

    don't think of "indecent" in the normal usage of the word - indecent in that context is a more technical term, in this case imagine if the pictures were 'professional' pornography, would they be deemed indecent/obscene and denied classification.

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