On Video Voyeurism

by on September 22, 2004 · 16 comments

If you found this entry thanks to a Web search, you’re probably a perv. Go away!

For the rest of you, yesterday the House passed a bill to ban video voyeurism. Because it has already passed the Senate, it is likely to become law.

‘Upskirting’ with little cameras is ugly behavior, and juvenile. So do we all support a law against it? Good question.

Laws are supposed to protect people from bad things. So the most important question about anti-video voyeurism law is: Who is hurt?

Now, I’m a Web user who occassionally, purely by accident, runs across sites with vulgar content. And I’m here to tell you that ‘upskirt’ photos almost never identify whose skirt is being looked up.

In cases where a person’s identity could be determined because a face appears or a caption says “This is . . . ‘s backside,” the behavior is a clear violation of common law privacy rights. A cause of action already exists in nearly every state.

But to protect the decency and morals of the nation, should there be criminal penalties? Well, that justification has no stopping point, so I won’t abide it. On balance, the bill takes for the government a role that civil society should play: shaming and ostracizing perverts (like I did with you at the beginning of this post – why are you still reading?)

What makes this bill only minimally bad is that it applies in “the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States”. My understanding is that this means on federal property and within federal jurisdiction. It doesn’t establish law most places in most states. The states get to decide for themselves what’s legal and what’s not.

And the states should leave shame in place as the primary means of getting at camera-toting pervs who don’t expose identified individuals.

  • Stephen

    You’ve got to be kidding me. You don’t think it should be illegal to violate somebody’s privacy for the sake of sexual pleasure? Are you saying that I can put a spy cam in the women’s locker room at the gym and post the video on the internet as long as I blur out the victims’ faces?

  • Stephen

    You’ve got to be kidding me. You don’t think it should be illegal to violate somebody’s privacy for the sake of sexual pleasure? Are you saying that I can put a spy cam in the women’s locker room at the gym and post the video on the internet as long as I blur out the victims’ faces?

  • Bob

    I agree with Stephen. Then, it should be absolutely legal for a child molester to put on the web videos of their exploits as long as they blur out their victims faces? This is ridiculous!

    I do not need the government to tell me what is moral or immoral. I know that I can use common sense to judge what is good or bad but then again…maybe there should be a law regulating the use of common sense too?

  • Bob

    I agree with Stephen. Then, it should be absolutely legal for a child molester to put on the web videos of their exploits as long as they blur out their victims faces? This is ridiculous!

    I do not need the government to tell me what is moral or immoral. I know that I can use common sense to judge what is good or bad but then again…maybe there should be a law regulating the use of common sense too?

  • Jim Harper

    These comments reflect good (moral) outrage. I’m making a subtle and esoteric point: I don’t believe there is a role for law when the “victim” is not victimized. Improper, non-harmful behavior is the realm of morals and social approbation.

    Example: If you write on a piece of paper, “Jim Harper committed a murder when he was 11,” that is false and would be defamatory, but it does me no harm unless you publish it. The falsity is a necessary, but insufficient condition. The publication defames me. You’re wrong to have written a falsity but, if it’s unpublished, that’s the end of it.

    UNLESS you want to import into U.S. law the idea that people should be held metaphsically inviolate by others. The only place I know of such doctrine is the right artists in Europe have to prevent their works from being mutilated or distorted. Incidentally, these are called “moral rights.”

  • Jim Harper

    These comments reflect good (moral) outrage. I’m making a subtle and esoteric point: I don’t believe there is a role for law when the “victim” is not victimized. Improper, non-harmful behavior is the realm of morals and social approbation.

    Example: If you write on a piece of paper, “Jim Harper committed a murder when he was 11,” that is false and would be defamatory, but it does me no harm unless you publish it. The falsity is a necessary, but insufficient condition. The publication defames me. You’re wrong to have written a falsity but, if it’s unpublished, that’s the end of it.

    UNLESS you want to import into U.S. law the idea that people should be held metaphsically inviolate by others. The only place I know of such doctrine is the right artists in Europe have to prevent their works from being mutilated or distorted. Incidentally, these are called “moral rights.”

  • Stephen

    “Metaphsically inviolate by others?” Someone who has upskirt photos taken of them without their consent is violated. How is that different from a peeping tom? Should it be legal to spy through someone’s window?

  • Stephen

    “Metaphsically inviolate by others?” Someone who has upskirt photos taken of them without their consent is violated. How is that different from a peeping tom? Should it be legal to spy through someone’s window?

  • Jim Harper

    If you were to describe how an upskirt photo victim is violated (in the absence of harm: i.e., the shock of discovering the act, circulation of the pictures that sullies reputation, etc.), I think you’d find yourself talking about things that are essentially metaphysical. As to peeping, I think it’s illegal because one has to commit a trespass to do it. If you can peep without trespassing, I think that’s watching a strip show. Or would you make it a crime to observe from your living room a neighbor undressing through her open window? Anti-peeping statutes are just extra words in the statute books, like this video voyeurism law, that add moral opprobrium for the sake of politics.

  • Jim Harper

    If you were to describe how an upskirt photo victim is violated (in the absence of harm: i.e., the shock of discovering the act, circulation of the pictures that sullies reputation, etc.), I think you’d find yourself talking about things that are essentially metaphysical. As to peeping, I think it’s illegal because one has to commit a trespass to do it. If you can peep without trespassing, I think that’s watching a strip show. Or would you make it a crime to observe from your living room a neighbor undressing through her open window? Anti-peeping statutes are just extra words in the statute books, like this video voyeurism law, that add moral opprobrium for the sake of politics.

  • Beverly

    I have a problem. I know I have been videotaped in my own home, via the window, while participating in a private act. I also know that the initiator of this are people who work in retail security and some community police are aware of this. I remember feeling like someone had been in my home at one time. These off-duty police walk up to me and stand by me when I shop at the store they work at. They never say anything but they will invade my privacy by getting in my private space and smerking. They have shared this information with others and I truly believe there is a video, but I can’t prove it. I believe this because whenever I go places I have never been before, I get the same smerks and attention. I find it hard to believe but some women also take part in the smerking or coming around me. I heard one man say to another that’s the lady that is in the video, one day as I shopped at a different store. I have told some people but everyone acts like I should leave it alone since I can’t prove it. I am upset because I think people should be more receptive to assisting rather than believing I am paranoid.

    Feeling trapped and violated everyday

  • Beverly

    I have a problem. I know I have been videotaped in my own home, via the window, while participating in a private act. I also know that the initiator of this are people who work in retail security and some community police are aware of this. I remember feeling like someone had been in my home at one time. These off-duty police walk up to me and stand by me when I shop at the store they work at. They never say anything but they will invade my privacy by getting in my private space and smerking. They have shared this information with others and I truly believe there is a video, but I can’t prove it. I believe this because whenever I go places I have never been before, I get the same smerks and attention. I find it hard to believe but some women also take part in the smerking or coming around me. I heard one man say to another that’s the lady that is in the video, one day as I shopped at a different store. I have told some people but everyone acts like I should leave it alone since I can’t prove it. I am upset because I think people should be more receptive to assisting rather than believing I am paranoid.

    Feeling trapped and violated everyday

  • anonymous

    First of all, try not to pass judgement when you clearly do not know what it’s like to be violated. I feel your pain Beverly. My husband and I are going through the most painful and shameful experience in our lives. We currently are leasing a house with an option to purchase it. Last month we found a pinhole camera in our attic pointed directly to our bed and another one in the master bathroom. Fingerprints were ran and the detective investigating this case informed me that the landlord’s fingerprints were found in the hard drive of the receiver. We only have a month left in our lease agreement and we feel helpless. WE have invested our money in this house that frankly I don’t care for anymore. Even if it’s stripped down to the slab to find if anything else is hidden or embedded, I couldn’t care less. The son of a bitch is still out there and we’re waiting for a call from the detective telling us there’s a warrant for his arrest. I have no clue when this’ll happen but in my opinion it should have happened when the prints matched that bastard’s! What the hell are they waiting for?!!!! If you guys know anybody or anything that would help me put this guy where he belongs as soon as possible… i’d very much appreciate it.

  • anonymous

    First of all, try not to pass judgement when you clearly do not know what it’s like to be violated. I feel your pain Beverly. My husband and I are going through the most painful and shameful experience in our lives. We currently are leasing a house with an option to purchase it. Last month we found a pinhole camera in our attic pointed directly to our bed and another one in the master bathroom. Fingerprints were ran and the detective investigating this case informed me that the landlord’s fingerprints were found in the hard drive of the receiver. We only have a month left in our lease agreement and we feel helpless. WE have invested our money in this house that frankly I don’t care for anymore. Even if it’s stripped down to the slab to find if anything else is hidden or embedded, I couldn’t care less. The son of a bitch is still out there and we’re waiting for a call from the detective telling us there’s a warrant for his arrest. I have no clue when this’ll happen but in my opinion it should have happened when the prints matched that bastard’s! What the hell are they waiting for?!!!! If you guys know anybody or anything that would help me put this guy where he belongs as soon as possible… i’d very much appreciate it.

  • jane

    I, too, have reason to believe I might have been videotaped. Can anyone tell me what I should look for? For example, can cameras be in light or ceiling fixtures, how small are they? And for the transmitters: where they might be located, and would someone have to be within a certain proximity with a laptop to download data, or can it even be downloaded via a picture capable cell phone? Where can I gather all this information in order to garner evidence? Thank you

  • jane

    I, too, have reason to believe I might have been videotaped. Can anyone tell me what I should look for? For example, can cameras be in light or ceiling fixtures, how small are they? And for the transmitters: where they might be located, and would someone have to be within a certain proximity with a laptop to download data, or can it even be downloaded via a picture capable cell phone? Where can I gather all this information in order to garner evidence? Thank you

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