A trial in Florida has captured the nation’s attention and is prompting important questions about what limits there is in our privacy on the internet. The case involves a well known ex-professional wrestler and an intimate video tape of him and a woman that was published on the internet a few years back. The man is suing the company who posted the video claiming publishing it violated his privacy.
This case began in 2012 when an internet website posted a video on its site of the man having adult relations with a woman. The video was secretly recorded without either of their permission and then peddled to the highest bidder. Almost immediately after the video hit the internet the man’s legal team demanded that they take it down, but the company did not comply. It was not until a judge ordered that the company take down the video that it was gone.
As anyone who has used the internet know, once something goes on the internet, it is there forever. Website after website will copy and share a popular video until it is impossible to get rid of it. Following the publishing of this video, the man sued the company for $100 million in damages for publishing it and refusing to take it down.
Company Defends Publication
The company being sued over the publishing of the video claims they had a right to publish it. The company’s primary defense is that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows an organization to publish content that is newsworthy without fear of being sued or facing government regulation of the published content. But at least some experts disagree with that position.
As part of his case, the ex-wrestler called a journalism professor to the stand to testify about whether a tape such as this is actually newsworthy and protectable under the First Amendment. According to that professor, it is not. He testified that publishing the actual video is unduly intrusive on the man’s life, and should not be protected by information typically protected by the First Amendment.
Now this case is up to the jury and judge to decide what should happen in the case. But on a national level it leaves us all with questions about what should and should not be produced, published, and consumed on the internet. For example, shaming and publishing videos or images of intimate portraits of teen has become the source of anxiety, depression, and even suicide. When such personal and private images are made public for all to see, should the law protect the publisher?
Ultimately each person will have to make his or her own decision on these issues. It will be interesting to see what happens to this company. If they are punished by the jury by handing down a big settlement, there is no doubt the case will be appealed and left in the hands of judges, and may even make its way to the Supreme Court of the United States.
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