Texas appeals court rules revenge porn law violates First Amendment

Texas appeals court rules revenge porn law violates First Amendment

A Texas appeals court ruled [opinion] Thursday that the Relationship Privacy Act [text], which prescribes criminal and civil penalties for defendants who disseminate pornographic visual material featuring former significant others without consent, is overly broad and it violates First Amendment rights of third party individuals who are not original parties in the romantic relationships.

The statute makes it unlawful to disseminate material depicting “intimate parts” of the victims. “Intimate parts” include “naked genitals, pubic area, anus, buttocks, or female nipple of a person.” “Visual material” includes: “any film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide or any photographic reproduction that contains or incorporates in any manner any film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide.” The law prescribes either a civil $1000 fine or an injunction for intentional exposure. The law also prescribes a $500 fine or an injunction for unintentional exposure. Violating the statute is a class A criminal misdemeanor.

The appeals court was most concerned with the act’s criminal component. The Relationship Privacy Act includes an addition to the Texas Penal Code. Section 21.16(b) that makes third parties culpable. The court was concerned that those who were not involved with the creation of the original content and could not have reasonably known such content was private in nature would be held criminally liable for disseminating the content without intent to harm the victim.