Written with the intent to criminalize "revenge porn," Arizona's recent law banning the circulation of nude pictures without written consent is coming under fire for being poorly written and taking the definition of nudity a step too far. Many states are criminalizing "revenge porn," an act where an individual sends out nude photos of their ex out of spite because their relationship has ended or other similar circumstances. But critics are saying that the Arizona law strays from this purpose and will wrongly criminalize nonharmful acts.
The bill is House Bill 2515, referred to as "the unlawful distribution of private images." The portion that critics refer to as poorly-written is as follows: "It is unlawful to knowingly disclose, display, distribute, publish, advertise or offer a photograph, videotape, film or digital recording or other reproduction of another person in a state of nudity or engaged in a sexual act without obtaining the written consent of the depicted person."
Derek Bambauer, a professor of law, expressed that it really isn't a "revenge porn" law, as much as it is an "anti-naked pictures" law.
"The Arizona law is badly drafted, vague and almost certainly unconstitutional," Bambauer said. "It provides no safeguards to exempt vital speech that is protected by the First Amendment, such as for images used in news reporting."
Bambauer said there are a variety of situations in which this law can criminalize individuals who have not committed any crime.
"As the [American Civil Liberties Union]'s suit notes, it could easily create criminal liability for history teachers who show their class the famous 'Napalm Girl' photo, or for a show at the Center for Creative Photography here at UA that displays some of Edward Weston's work," Bambauer said. "And the response from the bill's principal sponsor in the Arizona Legislature highlights exactly the problems with the bill: if bookstores or CCP are concerned, he said, then they should censor any potentially suspect material by blocking it out."
Sean Feeney, president of Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, said he understands why the law is needed, but feels it is poorly written.
"I feel the actual language of the law is way too broad to be enforced," Feeney said.
Feeney also listed counter-examples to this law, such as the "Napalm Girl" photo.
Another example of people being convicted for a rather innocent act would be a parent taking a picture of their child in the bathtub, an incident that occurred in 2008 in Peoria, Ariz., to a family that took their photos to a local Wal-Mart to be developed and in turn were reported to the police department for pornography.
However, J.D. Mesnard, a Republican state representative from District 17, said that these incidents wouldn't fall under this law.
"If the nude person in the photo is not an adult, i.e. a mother displaying a nude photo of her newborn, the parent or guardian of the child should be tasked with giving consent," Mesnard said.
He also said that those who pass along the photo without knowledge that consent wasn't given will not be penalized because the law is about photos being posted intentionally.
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