Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Exes and nude photos: Germany vs. the U.S.

Wow, Europe just doesn't buy the American idea that free speech online is sacrosanct. Earlier this month, the European Court of Justice ruled in favor of a "right to be forgotten," requiring Google to remove links to old and embarrassing articles about debts a Spanish lawyer had long since paid. And now a German court has come down on the side of a woman who wants her ex-boyfriend to delete nude pictures and erotic videos of her from his computer.

This kind of claim would never fly in the United States — the First Amendment would trample it. That's exactly why I'm glad Europe is building a different sort of online universe.

The woman in the German case said she consented at the time the nude images and videos were taken. But now she wants her photographer ex to wipe the images from his computer. He refused. The ruling in her favor is based on Germany's constitution, which provides for "the inviolability of human dignity," stating that "every person shall have the right to free development of his personality" so long as he doesn't violate other people's rights along the way.

"The court interpreted the personality right to include an 'intimate sphere' subject to protection,'' the Guardian reports. "The protection afforded to the intimate sphere was more important than any copyright protection or rights afforded to the ex-lover photographer. The items ordered for deletion were done in the photographer's personal capacity and not as part of his business.''

There is no right to dignity in the U.S. Constitution, much less the freedom to control the development of one's personality. You can sue someone for slander, or the publication of private facts, if defamatory posts go up about you online. But those cases are hard to win (and sometimes even to find out the identity of the poster, if he or she acts anonymously).

It is also hard to get any kind of relief if someone has nude images of you even if they took them without your consent. A few states have tried to address the problem of revenge porn, but this is only an initial effort. And it confronts an entrenched American tradition of treating the right to free speech as absolute. We do cherish our First Amendment.

What if the European experiment shows little speech of value to be lost — and a lot of relief from humiliation and invasion of privacy gained? Would we ever rethink our approach in the U.S.? Cases like this one in Germany raise the questions.

Emily Bazelon is the Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School.

Exes and nude photos: Germany vs. the U.S. 05/29/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2014 6:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

    National

    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  2. Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

    National

    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, current and former officials said, according to the Washington Post.

    After President Donald Trump fired James Comey, shown here, as FBI director, the Washington Post is reporting, Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.
  3. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”
  4. Romano: Time is up chief, make a call on police body cameras

    Crime

    Excuse me chief, but it's time to take a stand.

    St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway
  5. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.