With the universality and affordability of camera/video phones, more and more couples are taking photos and videos of each other, and themselves, in sexually explicit scenarios.  While the individuals in the relationship may consent to the making of these videos and photos at the time, and for their own use, it is becoming more common that these videos and photos are then being uploaded to the internet without the consent of one of the parties.   Such uploading often occur after the parties have broken up, and is frequently done in order to humiliate or shame the other person as retaliation or payback for ending the relationship .  This is what is commonly referred to as “Revenge Pornography”.

While it may be impossible to prevent an ex-partner from uploading sensitive images and video to the internet, victims of “revenge porn” do have recourse in such circumstances.     From a Criminal Law perspective, Bill C-13, Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act (2014), referred to as the “Cyber-Bullying Act” amended section 162.1 the Criminal Code to make it a criminal offence to publicly distribute private intimate images of a person without their consent. The law applies to images or videos posted on websites, or distributed via text message, email and social media.  Significantly, as a result of including the distribution and transmission of images or media in the provisions, criminal sanctions can be applied not only to the party who originally posted the image, but to anyone who proceeds to further disseminate the intimate image or video further, so long as they are aware that they are doing so without the consent of the person in the image or video.  As an example, if Bob, without consent of his girlfriend, texts a nude photo of her to his colleague Joe, and Joe proceeds to email that photo to Paul, not only has Bob committed a criminal offence under section 162.1 of the Criminal Code, but potentially so has Joe.   While these much needed amendments to the Criminal Code are important and the recent jail sentences handed out to offenders will help to serve as a deterrent to those who might upload Revenge Porn, such penalties do not actually address the damage done to the victims of revenge porn.

However, Alberta has recently passed a law protecting victims of Revenge Porn, and offering a means by which to claim compensation against offenders for the significant harm done to the victims.  In early 2017, Bill 202 was passed, known as the Protecting Victims of Non-Consensual Distributing of Intimate Images Act (2017).

Anyone publishing, transmitting, selling, advertising, or distributing intimate images of another person, without that person’s consent, can be found guilty of an offence under this Act.  Under this Act, victims of “Revenge Porn” can claim for monetary compensation from the guilty party, removal of the images from the Internet, or any other remedy the court sees as just and reasonable, including making the guilty party account to the victim for any profits that were earned from the use of the images and videos.

These recent changes to the law,  reflect society’s abhorrence for the increased use of social media as an avenue to engage in harmful behavior of a sexual nature.  Distribution of sexual images without consent is a violation of a person’s privacy. Distributing these images can cause embarrassment, humiliation, harassment, and harm that person. Due to the fact that we live in a digital age where anything and everything is accessible with the click of a button, it is important to keep these protections in place for victims of revenge porn.

If you need legal advice or representation with any family law matter, please contact Mincher Koeman LLP at 403 910 3000 or reception@mincherkoeman.com

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