In what appears to be the first Texas case of its kind, the 14th Court of Appeals upheld $345,000 in damages awarded to a woman for past and future mental anguish and punitive damages resulting from revenge porn.
The court defined “revenge porn” as being popularly understood as nonconsensual pornography: “the distribution of sexually graphic images of individuals without their consent,” including “images consensually given to an intimate partner who later distributes them without consent,” and “images originally obtained without consent,” such as hidden recordings.
The court opinion was written by Justice Sharon McCally, a former moot court law student of mine. The opinion is quite a read, showing in extensive detail the text messages sent by a former boyfriend to the plaintiff in a pattern of harassment and threats over a period of years.
The opinion appears at this link.
For more on the new Texas laws relating to revenge porn, click here: http://ncmlegal.com/news/
New Texas “Revenge Porn” Laws
Effective September 1, 2015, new civil and criminal provisions apply to persons who unlawfully disclose or promote intimate visual material or even threaten to do so. “Revenge Porn” is the term often used to refer to intimate or sexually explicit photos or videos uploaded to the internet, usually by men who do it to strike back at a former girlfriend or spouse.
In California the operator of a revenge porn website recently was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Victims included teachers, wives and professionals. The compromising photos cost people jobs, damaged relationships and led one person to attempt suicide. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/04/04/california-revenge-porn-site-operator-sentenced-to-18-years/ Authorities said the site operator had created a second website and used it to solicit payments of $250 to $350 from victims who wished to have the photographs deleted. If you click on this link, you can hear victims of revenge porn describing their experiences: http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/03/us/califomia-revenge-porn-sentence/.
Although the Texas laws are new, the phenomenon of revealing sex tapes, whether as revenge porn or simply for sport, is not new. Way back in 1990 a young man was hit with a million-dollar verdict for allegedly showing a sex tape to his college buddies. According to the New York Times, a witness reported that, after the verdict, the Houston law firm defending the college guy showed the film in-house and that staff were “watching it like a stag film.” http://www.nytimes.com/1990/06/01/us/law-bar-for-texas-firm-price-circulating-videotape-proves-quite-steep. The L.A. Times reported that the law firm was threatened with suit by the victim’s firm and quickly settled for $650,000. http://articles.latimes.com/1990-06-07/news/mn-1884_1_law-firm
Recently, a former Galveston judge was charged with creating “fake online ads saying two ex-girlfriends were available for sex-for-hire.” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ex-judge-accused-of-making-fake-sex-ads-for-ex-girlfriends/ The charges were for online harassment, rather than revenge porn.
Texas courts will be dealing with lawsuits, prosecutions, and legal questions arising from the new revenge porn laws, and the McCabe Law Firm will be monitoring the developments. If you have issues connected to revenge porn, please contact the firm.