Woman Wins $6.4 Million By Copyrighting Her Breasts
A woman in California has won damages after her ex-boyfriend uploaded her explicit photos to dating sites, revenge porn sites and even emailed them to the woman’s mother.
According to the victim’s legal team, their female client has won the second-biggest payout for a non-celebrity victim of revenge porn. The woman, named as Jane Doe in legal filings, has won $6.45 million in damages from David K. Elam II.
The two are former partners who met in California, and the explicit photographs that were uploaded online were sent while the two were still dating.
Restraining Order and Lawsuit After Breakup
Jane Doe had initially sent the explicit material to Elam at his request when he moved to Virginia and she stayed back in California. These were the photos that were uploaded to dating sites and even sent to her mother when the two broke up.
Even after Doe filed a restraining order that required him to remove the photos and fake profiles from the internet and to stop impersonating her, Elam did not follow through.
Doe filed her lawsuit against Elam in December of 2014 and is only now seeing the end result. As a part of the process, Doe registered her photos with the US Patent and Trademark Office to obtain ownership of the copyrights. Generally, the copyright for a photograph belongs to the person who took them. So, as these were selfies, Doe was able to assert her rights.
According to Seth A Gold, one of lawyers representing Doe,
“In many instances it is easier for a victim of revenge porn to have photos of herself and himself removed from a website if they own a copyright registration.”
So, along with the broken restraining order and copyright issue, the lawsuit alleged emotional distress, cyber-stalking and online impersonation with the intent to cause harm.
Elam Impersonated Jane Doe Online
As a result of the online impersonation, Doe would receive texts from unknown men who had been led to believe that they had made contact through these sites. Based on Elam’s impersonation of the woman on dating sites, these men texting her believed that she was looking for “indiscriminate sexual relations.”
Not only were the texts disturbing, but they were reportedly indicating that they were en route to her house. Elam’s impersonation of
How Motive Affects Crime and Punishment
According to the Cornell Law School’s dictionary, motive is:
“…the probable reason a person committed a crime, as when one acts out of jealousy, greed, or revenge. While evidence of a motive may be admissible at trial, proof of motive is not necessary to prove a crime.”
Motivation for a crime matters in sentencing. According to Carissa Byrne Hessick at the University of North Carolina School of Law,
“…[motive] is necessary to prove liability for some offenses; it is a key component of several defenses; and it has been a traditional consideration at sentencing.”
Judgement and Damages
Judgement on the case was entered by US District Judge Philip Gutierrez of Los Angeles on April 4th, 2018. He awarded $3 million in compensatory damages, $3 million in copyright damages and a further $450,000 for copyright infringement. As well, the judgement notes that Elam’s lawyer withdrew from the case in 2015, but the reason for their leaving is unclear. Maybe they thought he was crazy, too.
Doe, who went to law school, was represented by K&L Gates’ Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project. The Project is based in Pittsburgh and they assign pro bono lawyers to victims of revenge porn. The highest award given out in a revenge porn case was also won by the Project, valued at $8.9 million. In that cause, it was against an Arizona man who was sharing explicit images sent by a woman.
Previously: Legislating Morality?
Five years ago we were covering the new need for revenge porn laws, as websites cropped up catering to the people who enjoy humiliating their exes and for the perverts who like watching it. At the time, our main point was that the best way to prevent revenge porn from happening to you is to not take or send explicit photos in the first place.
As for revenge porn as a gendered issue, it’s not: the British woman Sarah Lewis was in court last year to answer to five counts of stalking and one count of revenge porn.
Sources: Southern California Law Review, ABA Journal, New York Times