On Video Voyeurism

by on September 22, 2004

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.

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