Arizona Reviving its Revenge Porn Law

Figure and Form by The Narratographer from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Figure and Form by The Narratographer
from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Arizona lawmakers are trying to bring back the revenge porn law.

The Arizona House of Representatives unanimously passed HB2001 last week. This bill would make it a crime to share “revenge porn” without the person’s permission. The previous revenge porn law was suspended when the court ruled that the verbiage of the law was overly broad. This new version has been tailored to better address the problematic behavior. If this bill becomes a law, it will be

[U]nlawful for a person to intentionally disclose an image of another person who is identifiable from the image itself or from information displayed in connection with the image if all the following apply:
1. The person in the image is depicted in a state of nudity or is engaged in specific sexual activities.
2. The depicted person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Evidence that a person has sent an image to another person using an electronic device does not, on its own, remove the person’s reasonable expectation of privacy for that image.
3. The image is disclosed with the intent to harm, harass, intimidate, threaten or coerce the depicted person.

If this law passes, it will illegal to post your ex-partner’s naked selfie online or show it to a friend, even if your partner voluntarily shared the image with you. The requirement of intent is beneficial; it will protect artists, galleries, and bookstores from criminal prosecution if they inadvertently use a nude image without a model release.

If this law passes, the penalties will be similar to other sexual crimes:

I hope this law passes. Based on the number of questions I get about revenge porn, this is a problem that is not going away on its own. If it passes, I hope there will be campaigns to quickly educate people – in every age group. If you have a cell phone, you have the means to create explicit images and send revenge porn.  Comprehensive, age-appropriate education needs to be disseminated in homes, schools, community groups, and via social media, because ignorance of the law will not absolve you from the consequences.

Stay educated about social media law – this list of revenge porn laws in the U.S. is regularly updated. If you have a question about revenge porn, internet law, or photography rights, please contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

What’s the Answer to Revenge Porn?

What The . . . ? by Reinis Traidas from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

What The . . . ? by Reinis Traidas from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’m frustrated.

I regularly review the terms people search for and end up on this site. Almost every day people are asking questions about how they can determine if their intimate photos and videos have been posted online or what they should do if a current or ex-partner is threatening to post their intimate photos.

Now, I have no issue with consenting adults creating photos or videos in the privacy of their bedroom or wherever they have sexy time. I have a huge issue when it comes to people acting irresponsibly with these media files. And the problem doesn’t appear to be getting better.

My rule of thumb is people shouldn’t create intimate photos or videos unless they are certain that everyone involved is responsible and respectful enough not to share them with anyone. If you know you might be tempted to post these file or show them to your friends, don’t have them on your phone, delete them if you have them, or better yet – don’t create them.

I suspect a lot of people feel embarrassed when they learn that their naked image is online or someone is threatening to post it, so they try to deal with it quietly. These bad actors get to be so abusive, in part, because they’re doing it in the shadows behind a computer screen. They rely on their victim silence. The best response may be to bring this person into the light. If you are a victim in this type of situation, call the police. You may be the victim of revenge porn, harassment, or extortion. You may also want to talk to a lawyer because you might have a civil case as well.

Depending on your circumstances, your most effective course of action may be to turn to the court of public opinion by calling this bad actor out for their abusive and disrespectful deeds.

Likewise, if your friend offers to show you the intimate photos or videos they created with their partner, forcefully decline. Tell your friend they’re a disrespectful dick for even considering sharing these. This person is a jerk who shouldn’t be dating anyone or engaging in any activities that might lead to procreation. The only exception to this advice is if your friend offers to hand you their phone to look at the images. The good buddy response would be to take their phone and delete the images – save them from themselves.

In thinking about these situations, one of the reasons why I’m so frustrated is because I feel powerless to stop this misbehavior. The answer to this problem may lie in the way we teach tweens and tweens about using their phones. Just like we teach kids to say “please” and “thank you,” they need to be taught that it’s unacceptable to create and share content designed to humiliate and disrespect others.

If you suspect that you are the victim of revenge porn threatened with revenge porn, please know that you don’t have to deal with this situation alone. Please call the police, your local domestic violence resource center, and/or a lawyer. If you have any questions about revenge porn or any other questions about social media harassment, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

YouTube Reinstated my Video

Webtreats - 272 YouTube Icons Promo Pack by webtreats from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Webtreats – 272 YouTube Icons Promo Pack by webtreats from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Last month, YouTube pulled one of my videos within hours of it being released. My videos are typically uploaded in advanced and released early every Wednesday morning. That was the strangest message to wake up to.

The weird thing was that the videos on this challenge are mostly Q&A for legal questions about business, intellectual property, and internet law. Occasionally, I talk about more risqué topics like revenge porn and legal issues related to posting or sharing intimate photos and videos, but this video was about publicity rights. (The question I received was poorly phrased. As written it sounded like he/she could have been asking about human trafficking, but I’m pretty sure they were asking about the right of publicity.)

Since life is blog material, instead of posting the video that day, I posted about how YouTube pulled my video for allegedly violating their Community Guidelines. I do not know if someone reported my video as offensive or if an automatic process within YouTube detected suspicious verbiage and removed it automatically.

Initially, I was going to let it go, thinking “Their site, their rules;” but a friend suggested I appeal the decision. (I wish I could remember who suggested this! Thank you!) I went into the firm’s YouTube channel and submitted an appeal with a short note explaining that the purpose of the video was a discussion of publicity rights, not an endorsement of human trafficking. About a day later, I received the following response:

Thank you for submitting your video appeal to YouTube. After further review, we’ve determined that your video doesn’t violate our Community Guidelines. Your video has been reinstated and your account is in good standing.

In case you missed it, here’s the video that led to this predicament:

I’m glad this situation has a happy ending. The lesson I learned from all of this is that it’s worth it to appeal YouTube’s decision if you think a video was pulled in error. If you have any questions about a YouTube video or any other questions about social media law, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

YouTube Pulled My Video

Leaked YouTube Video by C_osett from Flickr (Public Domain)

Leaked YouTube Video by C_osett from Flickr (Public Domain)

Carter Law Firm releases a new Question of the Day video on its YouTube channel every Wednesday. I record these videos in advance in batches and then schedule them to be released on a weekly basis. The questions and topics for this videos come from terms people search for and end up on my site, questions I receive via email, and recent events related to business law, social media law, and intellectual property.

I schedule the videos to be published at 3am Arizona time so each new video is live by the time I get up on Wednesday morning. This past Wednesday, I awoke to a surprising email from YouTube:

The YouTube community flagged one or more of your videos as inappropriate. After reviewing the content, we’ve determined that the videos violate our Community Guidelines. As a result, we removed the following videos from YouTube . . . .

Wait…what?!? I do Q&A videos about legal questions. How did I violate their community standards?

The video in question was entitled, “Posting Pictures of a Girl you Bought Online.” This was a phrase someone searched for an ended up on this site. I started this video by questioning whether the person was asking about the legalities of posting a photo that he/she had purchased and the image depicted contains another person (copyright and rights of publicity issues) or if the person had purchased another human being and wanted to know if he/she could post an image of the purchased person online (human trafficking issues). I assumed the person was asking about copyright and publicity rights and addressed those issues in a general sense.

So why was the video pulled? Perhaps someone thought I made too light an issue of human trafficking (which I would never intentionally do). Whatever the reason, I sighed and thought “Their site. Their rules.” Whoever controls a forum decides what others can and can’t post on it. If they had an issue with my video, it was their prerogative to remove it. If you want to see it, I posted it on the Carter Law Firm Facebook page.

If you have a website where others can post comments or other content, you get to set the rules regarding what is and is not allowed. As long as your rules aren’t illegal, you can write them however you want. Even this site has a terms of service.

If you want more information about website terms of service, please check out my book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. If you want to chat with me about YouTube’s policies or terms or service in general, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

No Easy Answers in Social Media Law

Math Castle by Gabriel Molina from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Math Castle by Gabriel Molina from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Earlier this week I did an interview for Casual Fridays with Tyler Anderson about social media law. I had a great time talking about copyright, trademark, and the FTC rules that apply to social media and the internet in general.

Whenever I do a Q&A on social media law, I tend to get the same types questions over and over again:

  • Can I use any image I find online if I give an attribution and a link to the original? What if I’m not making money off it?
  • I just want to use 10 seconds of a song. Is that ok?
  • If someone sends me a photo, I own it, right? I can do anything I want with it, right?
  • How much do I have to change someone else’s work to qualify for fair use?

As I listened to Tyler’s questions, I realized that he and most social media marketers and entrepreneurs are looking for clear answers. They want things to be as black-and-white as possible, but unfortunately the law is filled with shades of gray, especially in emerging area of law where the technology is advancing faster than the law can keep up.

The best a person can do is to be aware of the basics of copyright, trademark, contract, and privacy laws and assume that there are no easy answers to their questions, even when it seems simple. I also recommend that business owners meet with their lawyers once a year (just like you meet with your accountant) to review their business and standards of practice to make sure that your business is in compliance with the law.

If you want more information about social media law, please check out my book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. If you want to chat with me, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

FTC & Promotions – Always Disclose Relationships

My box of Mental Mojo - love this stuff! (Thanks to the owners for sending me free product!)

My box of Mental Mojo – love this stuff! (Thanks to the owners for sending me free product!)

My friends own a company called Mental Mojo – it’s a powder that contains caffeine and cognitive enhancers that you mix in water. I drink it when I’m tired – it helps me get my work done without making me jittery. (I love that it turns my water super nerd green, which reminds me of this infamous exchange between Data and Scotty on Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

Because I talk about it so much online, I usually get my Mental Mojo for free (and they’ve invited me to the taste test for the new flavors). I’m not a paid spokesperson for this company, but I do get benefits from promoting the product. As such, every time I talk about drinking free product, I need to disclose my relationship with this company – not just because it shows transparency, but because the federal law requires it.

FTC Rules about Promotions
The Federal Trade Commission has strict rules about making “clear and conspicuous” disclosures when a person has a relationship with a company. These rules apply to spokespeople, online contest participants, product reviewers, and companies that use affiliate links on your site. When you are compensated for giving an opinion, you have to disclose your relationship.

If you fail to disclose a relationship with a company, the FTC can fine you up to $11,000. And they can go after you or the company.

Even in 140 Characters
And don’t think for a second that tweets or other micro-form social media sites are exempt from this rule. At the very least, you have to include “#ad” on your post. It’s not enough to include a link to a site that includes the disclosure of your relationship.

Truthfulness and Transparency
Whenever you write a product review, whether it’s on a review site like Yelp, a product review blog post, or providing a quote for their website or LinkedIn profile, you must provide a truthful and accurate review of the product or service. Posting fake or embellished reviews (positive or negative) violates the FTC rules.

I’ve written product reviews and I appreciate that my editors respect the FTC rules by asking us to describe the benefits and drawbacks of each product we try.

Video Disclosures
If you do reviews in video form – including unboxing videos – you need to disclose when you get free product and provide honest reviews. The FTC says it’s not enough to have the disclosure in the video notes. You have to say it or post verbiage to that effect at the beginning of your video and possibly repeat this information throughout the video depending on its length.

This disclosure doesn’t have to be complex. It can be something like, “The guys at Mental Mojo sent me this free box of their product. Let’s try it out.” (If you are trying Mental Mojo for the first time, the flavor may be a bit strong. Until you get used to the taste, you may want to mix it with club soda instead of plain water. The carbonation helps take the edge off.)

Final Thoughts
Disclose disclose disclose. If you get a benefit from talking about a product or company online, disclose it. Whether it’s your employer, a client, or a company that sends you stuff for free – it should be crystal clear to anyone who sees your posts that you have a relationship with the company.

If you work with spokespersons or campaign partners, make sure part of your relationship includes an educational component about their obligation to disclose your affiliation whenever they talk about you on any platform.

I spoke about this topic earlier this year at Content Marketing World. Be sure to check out the follow-up article about this panel by Northeast Ohio Media Group.

If you want more information about this topic, please check out 6 Things to Know About FTC Disclosures When Working with Influencers or my book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. If you want to chat with me about a specific question related to the FTC rules and promotions, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

Periscope Summit Recap

My Badge from Periscope Community Summit - September 2015

My Badge from Periscope Community Summit – September 2015

I had the pleasure of being on a panel with Mitch Jackson to discuss the legalities of live-streaming video apps at the Periscope Community Summit last week in New York. We had a blast. Special thanks to the organizers of this event.

The Periscope user community is so friendly and accepting. I hope we’re invited back to the next Periscope Community Summit in San Francisco this winter. Here are some of the take-away lessons from our panel:

There is No “Undo” Button. Unlike other social media platforms where you can edit your work before you release it, Periscope videos are live. If you are someone who tends to embellish, be excessively emotional, or otherwise get carried away, perhaps you shouldn’t ‘scope without thinking your ideas through. Because once you put something out there, you can’t take it back and you may not be able to apologize your problems away.

It’s Probably Illegal to ‘Scope that Concert. Many artists don’t allow photos or videos during their shows. This also applies to Periscope and other live video apps. Ditto for professional sports. Read the back of your ticket carefully and be prepared to be kicked out if you do it.

Be Careful if you do Karaoke on your ‘Scope. It seems like a lot of people sing when they are on Periscope, whether they are singing to a backing track or along with a song. When you buy a CD or an mp3 of a song, you are usually making a purchase for individual use and enjoyment. If you play that song on Periscope, you’ve created a public performance, which usually requires a separate license. If you use Periscope to promote yourself as a musician and you’re doing covers, you should look into buying a license from the appropriate source like BMI or ASCAP.

Playing Clips with Commentary is Probably Ok. If you review books, music, movies, and/or video games on your ‘Scope and you want to play audio or video clips of whatever you’re reviewing, that’s likely permissible under the fair use provision of the Copyright Law. This is particularly true if you’re adding your original thoughts on the topic and you aren’t a substitute for the media you’re discussing.

A Word of Warning: Whoever owns the copyright in a work has the exclusive right to decide where and when the work will be copied, distributed, displayed, and performed. If they suspect that you are violating their rights on your ‘Scope, they will decide if and how they will lay the smack down on you for violating their rights. This could be anything from a cease and desist letter to a lawsuit in federal court.

As always, these are my two rules of thumb for staying out of trouble on the internet:

  1. Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the newspaper.
  2. Assume that everything you post or broadcast online will be seen by four people: your best friend, your worst enemy, your boss, and your mother. If you don’t want one of those people to see what you’re thinking about posting, don’t share it (regardless of your privacy settings).

If you want to know more about the legalities of streaming your life on the internet, please check out this post I wrote about the law and Periscope. If you want a resource that addresses the broader issues of how the law applies to all social media, please check out The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. If you want to chat with me about a specific question related to copyright or internet law, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

Fair Use Victory!

Bambi vs. Godzilla (211/365) by JD Hancock from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Bambi vs. Godzilla (211/365) by JD Hancock from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The Ninth Circuit of the Federal Court handed down an important ruling regarding fair use this week. In Lenz v. Universal, aka the “Dancing Baby” case was about copyright, DMCA takedown notices, and fair use. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued Universal Music Publishing Group after Universal sent a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice when a mother uploaded a 29-second video of her baby dancing to a Prince song.

The key element of this court ruling is that the court declared that “copyright holders must consider fair use before sending a [DMCA] takedown notice.” Prior to this case, fair use was regarded as an “affirmative defense.” If you’ve seen my YouTube videos, you have seen this one where I declare, “Fair use is a defense, not a permission slip.” This court said that’s not the case, but rather that fair use is authorized by the Federal Copyright Act. There is no copyright infringement if your use of another’s copyright-protected work is permitted by fair use.

If you’re interested in learning more about fair use, I wrote a post that includes a mnemonic device for the fair use factors for a panel I did at Phoenix Comicon on fair use and fan art/fiction.

There are two downsides to the case (at least for now):

  1. Although the court said that copyright holders must consider fair use before sending a DMCA takedown notice, they only have to have subjective good faith belief that the use of the copyrighted work is illegal, even if this belief is objectively unreasonable.
  2. This ruling only applies to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit is comprised of Arizona, California, and most of the western United States. However, this ruling is not binding on the other ten Circuit Courts, but they can take it under advisement in future cases.

This case is a step in the right direction and will hopefully lead to fewer abuses of the DMCA. You can read the EFF’s full report about the case here.

Footnote: This case took eight years to reach this ruling. Sometimes pursuing a lawsuit is the right decision, but you have to be prepared to be in it for the long haul.

How the copyright laws apply to the internet is a legal issue that is constantly developing. If you need a resource about how the law applies to social media, please check out The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. If you want to chat with me about a specific question related to copyright or internet law, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

Who’s Talking to your Kids Online?

Hacker by Zodman from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Hacker by Zodman from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Did you see this social media experiment by Coby Persin where he pretends to be a 15 year-old boy? He approached a handful of 12-14 year-old girls online and invited them to meet in person. In each situation the parents were in on the act and all of them were convinced that their daughter’s wouldn’t accept the invitation, but each girl did – meeting him at a park, inviting him to their house, and getting into his van.

This video was instantaneously popular when it came and it’s had millions of hits, but I waited until now to talk about it, because this isn’t a one-and-done topic. This is a conversation parents need to be having with their kids on an ongoing basis about talking to people online and crossing the line from online interaction to meeting in the real world.

I have always recommended that parents be on the same social media platforms as their kids so they can monitor what they’re children are doing online. Parents should also know the passwords for their kids’ phones so they can check their text messages and photos. (And I’m an advocate of teens having some privacy, but it shouldn’t be a free-for-all.) After seeing this video, I have a few more suggestions for parents to protect their kids online.

1. Be Aware of Who your Kids are Talking to Online.
Just like you have at least a passing familiarity about who your kid knows at school and in their extracurricular activities, you should talk with your kids about who they talk to online and via text messages. Know who is an influence in their lives. If they mention someone new or become more secretive, that should give you a reason to probe deeper into what’s going on. It could be standard teenage rebellion, but it could be a reason for concern.

2.  Remind your Kids: “Don’t Befriend Strangers Online.”
I have a personal rule – if you’re not my friend in real life, you don’t get to be my “friend” on Facebook. Anyone can message me (because I use social media professionally) but that’s where I draw the line. I recommend the same rule for kids. The fact that someone looks pretty or appears to be a friend of a friend is not a good enough reason to have an ongoing connection. They may have a conversation because they’re fans of the same thing or in a Facebook group, but that shouldn’t be enough to allow that person more than surface access to you.

3.  Teach your Kids: “People Present an Altered Self Online.”  
I believe that most people are good and have good intentions; however, when it comes to the internet, everybody lies. Some people present their best self while others blatantly present a false self. Think of everyone online as a persona more than a person – at best you’re only seeing one side of them. Just like you shouldn’t compare your body to airbrushed fashion models, don’t compare yourself to someone’s posts online.

Keep the conversation about online safety going. Show your kids Coby Persin’s video and TV programs like To Catch a Predator and talk about the fact that not everyone is what they appear to be in real life compared to what they say online. Every teenager should read and own The Gift of Fear by security expert Gavin de Becker before they get their driver’s license. (I am not a paid spokesperson for Gavin de Becker. I’m just a fan of his work.)

Internet safety is a complicated topic.  If you want to chat with me more, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

Working with People who Don’t Understand Copyright

Sentinel vs. Jawa (88/365) by JD Hancock from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Sentinel vs. Jawa (88/365) by JD Hancock from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Here’s the scenario: You are a newly hired third party content creator for a company. You learn that your client has a habit of copying pictures from Pinterest or Google Images searches without verifying that they are allowed to use the images on their website and/or social media posts. They want you to do the same. What should you do?

Option #1: Your Client Needs an Education about Copyright
Some people truly believe they can use any image they find on the internet, particularly if they give an attribution and a link back to the original. There are so-called “gurus” who will tell you this is ok. It’s not.

What your client is likely doing is committing copyright infringement. Inform your client that he/she is running the risk of getting a cease and desist letter, a bill with a license, or a lawsuit. In the worst-case scenario, they could face a lawsuit for $150,000 per image they use, plus attorneys’ fees. Tell your client to thank their lucky stars they haven’t faced one of these consequences yet and advise them that the prudent thing to do would be to replace all images on their site with pictures they can legally use.

Use this an a teaching experience to educate your client about the importance of asking permission, using Creative Commons, and possibly exploring whether what they are doing in some situations qualifies as fair use.

Option #2: Your Client Understands but Disregards Others’ Copyright Rights
Fire your client.

This person is obviously an idiot. No money is worth being affiliated with this company. Run away as fast as you can.

Footnote: Every company should have a “No Jerks” rule when it comes to employees and clients. If you find someone violating this rule at a genetic level (not just having a bad day), cut all ties with them immediately.

The same rules about copyright that apply to your website also apply to your social media posts:

Whenever I work on a contract for the relationship between a company and an outside content provider, I always recommend that my client require an indemnity clause that will protect them if they are accused of intellectual property infringement based on material provided by the other party. Your contract is the master document for your working relationship. It should clearly define the parties’ obligations to each other which should include deadlines and deliverables and also how you will resolve problems when they occur.

If you want to know more about the complex issues related to copyright and the internet, please check out The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. If you want to chat with me about this topic, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.