Revenge porn victims receive boost from German court ruling

Intimate photographs should be deleted at the end of a relationship if one of the partners calls for it, a court in Germany has ruled.

The ruling by the Koblenz higher regional court has resonated throughout a digital world grappling with the balance between freedom of expression and privacy. It was welcomed by experts who said it would empower revenge porn victims to be more proactive when seeking the deletion of compromising images.

In the case concerned, a man from the Lahn-Dill region in Hesse had taken several erotic photographs of his female partner, to which she had consented at the time. After the end of their relationship, the woman had demanded the deletion of the images, seeking legal help when the man refused.

The Koblenz court ruled in her favour on Tuesday even though her ex-partner had to date shown no intention of reproducing the pictures or putting them online. Consent to use and own privately recorded nude pictures, the court stated, could in this instance be withdrawn on the grounds of personal rights, which are valued higher than the ownership rights of the photographer.

The court did specify that the woman could only seek the deletion of nude or erotic photographs, not those showing the couple fully clothed. The man may still appeal against the decision.

The ruling has been welcomed by both legal experts and support groups for victims of online bullying. Michaela Brauburger, who educates young people about responsible use of social media in Germany, told the Guardian: “Increasingly, young people share and upload images without giving it much thought. We constantly try to educate young girls in particular to think about what may happen to intimate photographs after they are taken. Hopefully this decision will empower them to broach the issue with their partners before it is too late.”

Lawyer Tim Geissler, who specializes in “revenge porn” cases, said that while there were ways in which people who had had compromising images of themselves published online could seek their deletion, they could only do so after the damage had been done. He cited the example of a couple from Düsseldorf in their early thirties. She was a part-time model, he was a hobby photographer and they liked taking pictures of each other: on holidays, at home, and sometimes in the bedroom.

The couple divorced in 2010 – the man had acted aggressively towards his wife and beaten her several times. A few months later, the woman discovered he had shared intimate photographs of her on Facebook, alleging she had started doing pornographic shoots since their separation.

She sought legal help and eventually a court ordered her ex-husband to delete the photographs from his Facebook account. But, Geissler said, had he posted the pictures anonymously, it may have been impossible to get a legal grip on the offender.

By the time the victim sought legal help, the offense had been committed but if the Koblenz ruling were to set a precedent, she could have asked for the pictures to be deleted straight after the divorce.

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, a professor of internet governance and regulation at Oxford University, warned against seeing the Koblenz decision as being the direct result of this month’s European court of Justice ruling against Google, which some say could help establish a pan-European “right to be forgotten“.

“The Koblenz decision was not about data protection but the ‘right for one’s own image’, which is a special construction of continental European jurisprudence,” said Mayer-Schönberger. “But what can be said is that is that these two rulings may make more and more people aware of their personal rights in the digital sphere. At the very least, it should embolden future claimants who pro-actively want to prevent revenge porn.”

“We can detect a wider trend here,” said Christian Solmecke, a German lawyer who has worked on a number of “revenge porn” cases. “In the future we may increasingly find that images or data whose publication was lawful at the time may have to be deleted as circumstances change”.

‘Revenge porn’ victims receive boost from German court ruling – The Guardian
revenge porn – Google News… Read the rest