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There’s A New Weapon In The Fight Against Revenge Porn: Copyrighted Breasts

With insufficient legal leverage to fight revenge porn, some victims turn to the Library of Congress for help

image via cnn screenshot

Revenge porn is one of the more insidious realities of our increasingly digitized, ever-interconnected lives. While law enforcement has made an effort to crack down on the worst offenders—kingpins like Is Anyone Up? founder Hunter Moore, and UGotPosted owner Kevin Bollaert—the viral nature of revenge porn ensures that as long as there are people taking what they assume will be private pictures of themselves, other people will attempt to post those images on the internet without permission. But although it may be impossible to ever fully stem the tide of of nonconsensual nudes posted online, that hasn’t stopped some victims of revenge porn from taking creative measures to protect themselves from digital exploitation.


One such victim spoke this week with CNN Money. Using the pseudonym “Hilary,” she describes sending naked pictures of herself to her long-distance boyfriend at the time, and how he then published those photos online once their relationship ended. It’s a frustratingly common scenario, and one for which, legally speaking, there are surprisingly few avenues of recourse. Currently, only 17 states have revenge porn legislation on the books to explicitly criminalize this particular form of digital invasion of privacy.

The first step, notes CNN, in fighting revenge porn (along with many forms of illicit online imagery) is often to file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice, which can be applied to non-copyrighted images, and is, in some instances, enough to prompt websites to remove the media in question. But, that’s not always the case. And so Hilary found herself forced to get creative by going to the United States Library Of Congress to file an official copyright for her breasts.

Copyrighting is both a time and labor-intensive process, which necessitates a government employee reviewing images of the application item in question. In other words: In order to fight naked pictures of herself online, Hilary would have to submit naked pictures of herself to the United States Copyright Office. While only the employee reviewing her application would see any naked pictures, and those images would not be archived in the Library of Congress, as can be requested by applicants, Hilary still had reservations, saying:

I thought, well no, this must be wrong ... they're forcing me to disclose them further when that's what I was trying to prevent

Ultimately, over a hundred images were granted copyrighted status, giving Hilary the legal leverage to demand sites pull her pictures down or face an infringement lawsuit. So far she’s been successful at getting some of her nonconsensual uploaded images removed, but still occasionally finds new sites sharing her intimate pictures.

As Death and Taxes’ Maggie Serota points out, Hilary’s solution to her particular case is a creative, and promising step forward in a fight where straightforward legal options are often lacking. Ultimately, though, the onus of responsibility for this astonishingly harmful form of privacy invasion should fall on those hosting and profiting off of revenge porn. In the meantime, however, websites like Twitter and Reddit—both of which have been used as platforms for spreading nonconsensual sexual imagery—have taken public stands to ban the sharing of sexual imagery without permission.

It’s not a solution, but it’s a start.

[via CNN/Death+Taxes]

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