Georgia Lawmaker Looking To Make Photoshopping Heads On Naked Bodies Illegal

from the good-luck----that's-like-half-the-internet dept

The age-old rhetorical and theological question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” seems to be finding itself answered more and more with, “So that good people can make bad laws.” Such is the case of a 17-year-old Citadel student who earlier this year found her personal contact information attached to a pornographic photo online.

High school junior Kelsey Upton was puzzled. Why was a stranger from Iowa sending her a text message?

Her confusion turned to terror last fall when she learned that the person who had sent the message had plucked her personal information from a pornographic website. Without her knowledge, someone had placed her name and phone number on the site next to a photo of a naked woman, in an explicit position, who somewhat resembled her.

Her father, a federal investigator who previously worked for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, traced the posting to a Citadel cadet, with the help of law enforcement officials. But to their dismay, Upton and her father learned that no crime was committed. Now Randy and Kelsey Upton, who live in Oxford, Ga., plan to meet with legislators and other public officials to try to make such actions a crime. “I want him arrested,” said Kelsey Upton, now 17. “But if that won’t happen, I want a law about this so someone doesn’t just get a slap on the wrist.”

Well, the Uptons are in luck. Sort of. The Agitator informs us that Georgia State Representative Pam Dickerson is looking to close this legal loophole by making it illegal to “intentionally cause an unknowing person wrongfully to be identified as the person in an obscene depiction in such a manner that a reasonable person would conclude that the image depicted was that of the person so wrongfully identified.” This would include using a person’s name, telephone number, address or email address.

However, Dickerson feels that isn’t enough. She then adds:

“Such identification shall also include the electronic imposing of the facial image of a person onto an obscene depiction.”

Now, rather than just closing an unfortunate hole in Georgia’s libel laws, Dickerson is aiming to make a pastime as old as the internet itself, photoshopping celebrities’ heads onto porn stars’ bodies, a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

Now, I’m not here to suggest that the long and storied history of creating celebupr0n makes this a part of our rich cultural heritage and an unassailable act of free speech. What I am suggesting, however, is this:

1. Creating a law to deal with a very specific set of actions with no real precedence or evidence of mass abuse is the sort of thing that creates legal clutter and goes a long way towards explaining why it’s illegal to tie your alligator to a fire hydrant in Michigan.

2. Existing libel/defamation laws should already be handling Photoshopped head transfers. There’s really no reason to take this from the civil arena and turn it into a criminal act.

3. It looks as if the Citadel is already planning on handling this internally as an issue between two cadets. Adding another law to the books is redundant at best and, at worst, is just encouraging people to holler for new laws every time they’ve been wronged.

4. If this law goes through, it will be subject to endless expansion, much in the way cyberbullying legislation has been stretched to cover such ridiculous acts as eye rolling and so-called “deliberate exclusion.” Offended citizens who find themselves photoshopped into other (non-sexual) compromising positions, like say, having their male heads attached to clothed female bodies or made to appear as though they endorse businesses and lifestyles that they clearly don’t, will feel the law doesn’t go far enough. The internet is a very inventive place while most lawmakers are not.

5. It will be ridiculed mercilessly. See also this post (possibly NSFW) and this clip (possibly not safe for your brain):

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Comments on “Georgia Lawmaker Looking To Make Photoshopping Heads On Naked Bodies Illegal”

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KingFisher says:

Well I’m like 20% in support for this bill and 80% against it. When I read this:

“Representative Pam Dickerson is looking to close this legal loophole by making it illegal to “intentionally cause an unknowing person wrongfully to be identified as the person in an obscene depiction in such a manner that a reasonable person would conclude that the image depicted was that of the person so wrongfully identified.” This would include using a person’s name, telephone number, address or email address.”

I’m like all for supporting this bill. I mean using someone’s personal information in a wrong way shouldn’t be tolerable.

But then when I read this:

“Such identification shall also include the electronic imposing of the facial image of a person onto an obscene depiction.”

It made me aghast to think what would happen to all legal usages for Photoshop.

I’m a multimedia artist and my main medium for my art work is Photoshop. I don’t like the fact that this can become a criminal law. Photoshopping someone’s picture to another in a way that can cause defamation should remain in civil suits. If it becomes a crime, what happens to my brother-in-law’s brother who works for a joke magazine where he goes Photoshopping faces to other bodies? That’s his livelihood. Seriously lets put a stop to the provision that allows Photoshopping someone’s face onto another be illegal. Seriously that’s such a mistake.

Yeah Right says:

How far will it go?

I’m just curious how far it all will go before the pendulum swings back the other way. The rights of ordinary people as citizens and consumers are being eroded more every day. And in the proces our planet is being destroyed.

Will it take global violence and even more destruction?

Reading reactions here and elsewhere seems to suggest many people still see no problem. Or that the problem is foreigners, Islam and the poor.

Is there a critical mass required for change? What would it be? Has the internet become the game-changer already?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: How far will it go?

And just what this has to do with the subject at hand is also a question. Or what it has to do with such things as global warming.

(Unless of course all those coal fed power plants whose demand it eaten up by people using computers, gadgets and other such paraphernalia./s )

If you’re talking about this young woman’s right not be be harassed or Photoshopped onto a body that isn’t hers complete with contact information in a situation she doesn’t appreciate I’m more of the opinion that libel and slander law are more appropriate tools to use than adding (yet another) crime to the books. At worst this might be harassment and I have to say I don’t know (or care) what the state of Georgia’s laws say about that.

I do think the guy who posted it probably needs a couple of swift kicks to the crotch with pointed pumps, mind you, for sheer idiocy if nothing else.

There is a time and a place to stop reacting to darn near everything you don’t like by criminalizing it. This, it strikes me, is one of those times and places.

As for the Internet becoming a game changer, just where have you been since the web debuted? It’s already changed a whole list of games and will continue to change more. You don’t react to change by criminalizing the changes.

GMacGuffin says:

Defamation as they knew it ...

Notwithstanding that pesky First Amendment which these folks apparently thinks will give this statute a pass, here’s a fun bit – Section 2.

All laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act are repealed.

Wow. Rather than a clause like “does not expand or limit existing statutes…” they just repeal anything that ain’t the same, meaning potentially the definitions of “defamation,” “Nudity,” “Obscene depiction” and “Sexual conduct” throughout all of Georgia jurisprudence. Hilarious.

Kevin H (profile) says:

There are three ways to look at this. You can be flattered that someone took the time to do it, and accept that people want to have sex with you.

If its in a negative way then you should be asking yourself “What did I do that would anger people that they would do something like this?”, and then work to correct that behavior.

Say “fuck it.”, and move on with your day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’d be freaked out to terrified if strangers were calling or mailing my home because of something like this. I’d want the law to protect me from those people.

It’s not the photoshopping that would scare me but the personal info alongside the picture. If it was happening to my kid, I’d want blood and damages.

That said, the proposed law is silly, poorly aimed, and wide open to all kinds of (mis)interpretations. Exposure of the culprit is a great first step in a civil suit. Also she is a minor, I presume, so I’m surprised there isn’t some existing state or federal law that could be applied for putting her in harm’s way.

counsel dew says:

Re: Response to: Kevin H on Jan 24th, 2012 @ 4:36pm

Forgetting actual 1st Amendment protections… I can’t imagine why protecting some snot kid who so posts is so important. If she had no text plan andwas slammed with fees, she is damaged. Is this like saying if you are a target of identity theft, just change your bame and credit info? Why make a person subject to such behavior do anything? Joke mags do this, but everyone knows such pics are … fake-thus avoiding the lawsuits if applied correctly. I just wonder why most people seem to complain about her actions rather than the person who posted the pic and information…

Anonymous Coward says:

If you’ve ever done any digital photoediting this sort of stuff isn’t that hard to do.

I’d be more concerned with the personal contact data than I would the image getting out. Especially when that data happens to be accurate enough to actually call someone it’s supposed to be (even if it’s not).

Half the time now, seeing an image has folks on the internet hollering ‘photoshopped’ as a way of saying it isn’t the original and has been doctored. It comes to mind a certain image I saw that shows an X-wing fighter out of Star Wars being tossed over the side of an aircraft carrier supposedly happening in WWII.

The state of Georgia making a law that will apply world wide doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Anonymous Coward says:

So we make this a law, then some young woman (or several) comes along because photoshopped images of women in magazines made them anorexic, so we need a law to criminalize that too (although personally I think there should at least be some disclaimer on photos these days admitting they’ve been altered in some fashion). One merely has to google “stupid laws” to get a rather large list of dumb laws already on the books. Like we need more.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“although personally I think there should at least be some disclaimer on photos these days admitting they’ve been altered in some fashion). “

Nearly all photos are altered to some degree. Take a photo of a kid’s birthday party and you got red eye? You alter that, and now your proposed suggestion has you write underneath it
How would you define such a law? Who would it target? At what level do you define “alteration”? Is it okay to have no notices if you fix red eye, but you have to have a disclaimer if you alter the lighting? What about clearly altering the photo such that there are three copies of you in the one picture (a friend did that recently, looked cool)? Do I still need to put up a disclaimer there “THIS PHOTO HAS OBVIOUSLY BEEN ALTERED, IF YOU NEEDED THIS DISCLAIMER TO TELL YOU THAT, THEN REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE GENE POOL NOW!!!”

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Again, how would you word it? Nearly every photo in existence is altered in one way or another: resize, crop, add detail, fix red eye, lighting, colour.
Yes, let’s have truth in advertising, but a proposed law on this would be very dangerous. The law would have to be extremely narrow and extremely well written for it to work without falling afoul of the First Amendment.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Doesn’t the Citadel have an honor code that should result in punishment of the other cadet including hurting his chances of further advancement in his career?

One also wonders what the relationship between these 2 people is/was that lead to this event happening, its nice her daddy is important and stuff, but we only have her single side of the events that I am sure in no way leaves any room for her having left out details that might make her look like anything but a poor innocent victim.

Instead we have the ability to take what should be a nonissue and use it to catapult someone to the head of the class in leading the way of doing things “for the children” in an election year.

It has all of the requirements…
creepy dude
stalker dude
faked naked pics (the evil part of my brain wonders if they are indeed photoshopped wouldn’t be the first time romance went wrong)
the interwebs
just add hysteria

I’m glad everything is perfect in Georgia and that they have no real issues to handle so they can devote time to a bill that will get blown apart the first time they try to use it.

abd gum says:

What ever happened to ........

This looks shopped, I can tell from some of the pixels and from seeing quite a few shops in my time.

HFS – these people need a wake up call.

In the past when ones head was put upon a body to which it did not belong and then published for all to see whilst in line at the grocery store – remember the tabloids? – the correct response was to sue the publisher. This approach was successful several times as I recall, but there was never a law which to make such silliness illegal.

FFS, everyone knew it was a fake!

Get a brain morans!

AB says:

Isn't this a case of slander?

I would think this would be pretty straight forward. If Joe walks into a bar and loudly declares that Jane is a slut – especially if he follows the statement by providing her full name and address – wouldn’t that qualify as an open-and-shut case of slander? I can’t see how making fake pictures to back up his claims and then posting them on line changes the matter. Nor would it change things if he pretended to be her – it should still be a clear case of slander which is already covered under the law.

On the other hand, strengthening the laws surrounding online identity theft might not be a bad idea.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

My opinion: the case of the student discussed is harassment, but nothing more. And photoshopped celebrity nudes are free speech.

In more detail:

Harassment — placing someone’s contact information in such a way as to ensure they get unsolicited and unwanted calls, texts, and/or emails certainly seems to qualify.

Defamation — I don’t see any defamation here. What does such a photo say, exactly? “Person X has been naked”? Not untrue, so not defamation. “Person X looks good naked”? That’s a compliment, not an insult, so not defamation. Maybe if you photoshop someone’s head onto an ugly naked body that would be defamation. “Person X posed for a nude photo”? I can see how some people might find being mistaken for having made that choice disturbing, but it still doesn’t seem to be defamation. Saying it is, in fact, is an insult to everyone who actually has posed for a nude photo. Including quite a few well-known and respected celebrities.

The only argument in the comments above for treating it as defamation seems to require a big and questionable inferential leap from the existence of a nude photo of someone to “Person X has very low standards in their selection of prospective sexual partners”. Unless the photo actually goes so far as to depict them in a gang-bang (and, somehow, makes it clear that it’s consensual on Person X’s part) I don’t see how this inference can be valid on that data.

Adding to all of this, a number of the celebrity nude fakes floating around out there, at least, are clearly labeled as such, which seems to obliterate any possibility of defamation as surely as the “This is a work of fiction. Persons depicted are fictitious or are used fictitiously.” found inside the front covers of many printed novels. (With celebrities, there’s also the “actual malice” bar to reach to prove defamation against a public figure.)

Copyright: Photoshopped fakes are clearly transformative uses. On the other hand, simply slapping someone’s name and phone number onto a photo (of them or anyone else) may be straightforward infringement. But it’s a single noncommercial infringement of a single photo. You’d be lucky to collect in small claims court. And the copyright probably is vested in the photographer, not the subject, unless it’s a work made for hire or a self-pic. In the case of the student, the only copyrighted material used was a photo whose copyright probably belonged to a large entertainment conglomerate somewhere, rather than the student. The photo wasn’t of her; it was the contact info that was hers. And the contact info is a collection of facts ungoverned by copyright law.

Publicity rights law: This might be usable by celebrities to attack fakes, but it wouldn’t be usable by a random non-public-figure person such as the student in the instant case.

My suggestions:

* The legislature should shelve the suggested legislation.

* A civil complaint for harassment should be used. Since the harasser apparently goes to the same school, school-internal disciplinary measures should also be used. And perhaps the two of them should actually try to work out their differences first.

* The website with the altered photo should be requested to take it down, on the grounds that the contact information on it is false and part of a harassment complain. They will probably comply (likely by replacing the photo with an unadulterated version) though they probably can’t be legally obligated to do so.

* The alligator law that has been referenced several times should also be repealed, and the existing nationwide laws against parking obstructing a fire hydrant broadened to simply say that it is a finable offense to obstruct firefighters’ access to a hydrant with either a large physical obstruction or anything that creates a hazard, and that any such obstruction or hazard may be impounded. This will cover cars parked blocking a hydrant, alligators or vicious dogs tied to one, or any similar thing, including unforeseen ones.

* More generally, legislation should be overhauled and new legislation written with an eye to the actual policy objectives. If it’s “deter making it difficult for firemen to use hydrants” then don’t write a law specifying alligators, or even cars. If it’s “deter causing people to receive unwanted calls and texts from random strangers” then write a law making it harassment to disseminate someone’s contact information widely (especially accompanied by any sort of enticement to use it) without their permission.

* I’d also argue that the latter may not even be a good policy objective. A superior ability to screen unwanted phone calls and texts would be a technological solution. In the case of a person’s physical location and that of their home and workplace, though, there may be an increased risk of actual violence to someone. Accompanying an address with something reasonably construed as intending to induce anger toward whoever’s there or explicitly instructing people to be violent should be regarded as an incitement to violence, however. So, someone’s photo and address and “Show him what we do to thieves around here” should probably be illegal, and that even if the charge of thievery was truthful.

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