Sunday, March 06, 2011

14-year old child pornographers? Sexting lawsuits get serious

14-year old child pornographers? Sexting lawsuits get seriousIn a typical sexting case, a young girl took sexual pictures and shared them with a boy she liked. There was coercion, the kind boys have used forever...I won't like you if you don't, I won't be your friend if you don't and the promises of never sharing it with anyone. When the boy broke his promise and shared it with others who then shared it with the world, the girl was devastated. Her parents sued. When we look at sexting, typically, we look at the criminal laws that are making our teens and preteens registered sex offenders fr stupid actions. They can legally have sex with someone, but if anyone records it on video or in a still image, both can be charged with child pornography crimes under federal and most state laws.

The laws were not designed to handle consensual production and sharing of sexual images among minors. Instead, the law recognizes of young people often do not understand consequences and can be easily owerpowered emotionally and convinced or coerced into taking or posing for these sexual images. That's why whether or not the pictures were taken consensually, the minor in the image is not allowed to provide legal consent. But minors are held accountable for breaking the law, even at 13 and 14.

If we separate the sexual exploitation piece from the harassment piece, the negligent or intentional spreading of a private image beyond the terms permitted, is it easier to find culpability? In states having common law privacy rights, the better action may be for public dissemintation of private facts. This is less about coercion and force than it is about betrayal.

And the courts are well-versed in handling lawsuit alleging betrayal and broken promises.

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