A court in Germany has ruled that once a relationship dies, all intimate digital memories of that partnership must die with it – you know, like photos of your ex completely naked. The decision, made by Koblenz higher regional court, throws the legality of "revenge porn" sites propagated and promoted by people such as Hunter Moore, "the most hated man on the internet", into question.
In this particular case in Germany, a man had taken several erotic photos of his partner with her consent. When the relationship ended, she demanded the deletion of the images, and when he refused she sought legal help, eventually taking the man to court and winning, irrespective of the fact that the man had shown no interest in sharing the images with anybody else.
Michelle Brauburger, who educates young people on the responsible use of social media in Germany, told the Guardian: "Increasingly, young people share and upload images without giving it much thought. We constantly try to educate young girls in particular to think about what may happen to intimate photographs after they are taken. Hopefully this decision will empower them to broach the issue with their partners before it is too late."
The decision comes a week after an EU court ruled that Google must remove any personal data held on people that is deemed "inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant", meaning that maybe soon we'll be able to legally edit our online history. This particular case will probably only have immediate impact on "revenge porn" cases, the entirely immoral pursuit of posting explicit photos of an ex-partner online in order to tarnish their reputations or humiliate them. In America, moves are being made to make "revenge porn" a federal crime, and people like Hunter Moore could be prosecuted for crimes against women, rather than having to be thrown behind bars for hacking, as happened earlier this year.
It's an interesting time for online rights. Recent cases have made clear that there are issues with how the internet can perpetually archive information as well as spread it instantly. "Revenge porn" is undoubtedly the culture of lowlifes, but this German case also opens a wider conversation about the ownership of intimate images. Whose are they? The photographer's, or the subject's?
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot
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