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Summary:

A couple compiled a large collection of erotic photos and videos during their relationship. Should there be laws about what happens to the images after a breakup?

Some couples compile photos or even videos of their lovemaking. If both parties agree to do it, the steamy pics are the business of no one but the couple. But what happens if they break up? Can one partner force the other to delete the photos?

A court in Germany this week said yes, and granted a woman’s request for an order that requires her ex-boyfriend to delete all photos and videos in which she is naked.

According to The Local, an English-language news site in Germany, the man was a photographer and the couple had amassed a large collection of videos and intimate photos, including some the woman had taken herself.

In concluding the man had to delete the material, the judge reportedly declared that her personal rights trumped any copyright he had in the images. The ruling did not cover photos in which the woman was clothed, because such pics had “little, if any capacity to compromise” her.

The case raises the question of whether the U.S. and other countries should consider passing such a law that would require exes to delete compromising pictures if their partners demand hey do so.

The idea sounds like a good way to protect the privacy and the dignity of women (and, face it, 99 percent of the cases would involve women). Unfortunately, despite these good intentions, such laws would not work in practice.

They would be practically impossible to enforce. The sort of person who would refuse to delete photos of their ex-partner would be unlikely to obey a court order to do so, and could make secret copies instead. Short of heavy-handed surveillance, it would be close to impossible to find out if that had happened. As a result, it is probably better to have no law than an ineffective one.

That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done about the problem of men who use photos to humiliate or intimidate women. Writers like Charlotte Laws and legal scholars like Amanda Levendowski, for instance, are creating awareness — and legal pressure — to stop so-called “revenge porn.” But in the case of a couple’s private photographs, the law probably should have no role.

  1. tech solutions Friday, May 23, 2014

    seems ripe for a technological solution. Say a pic vault which require 2 key authentication to view. Call the site it secured file consent.

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