Arizona's New "Revenge Porn" Law Draws a Lawsuit on First Amendment Grounds

Arizona's so-called "revenge porn" law criminalizes much more than sharing an ex-lover's nude photos, states a lawsuit filed by several publishing and media organizations.

The law, passed earlier this year, essentially makes it a felony to share a nude photo of someone without the person's consent. According to the plaintiffs, the way Arizona's law is worded, it's now a felony offense to show iconic news images like those of the naked prisoners tortured at Abu Ghraib or the "Napalm Girl" from the Vietnam War. It's even a felony for a mother to show her sister an image of her infant child with no clothing, plaintiffs say.

"The law isn't limited in any way to revenge porn," American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Lee Rowland tells New Times. "The very fact our plaintiffs, [including] Arizona booksellers and media organizations, are concerned about the breadth of this law says it all."

See also: -Revenge-Porn Bill "Almost Certainly Unconstitutional," UA Law Professor Says -Brewer Signs Bill Making "Revenge Porn" a Felony

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include local booksellers like Bookmans and Changing Hands Bookstore, plus news organizations like Voice Media Group (parent company of New Times) and the National Press Photographer's Foundation.

Other states have passed laws to target "revenge porn," but the wording of Arizona's law is different from the statutes in those states.

"Of the laws we're aware of [in other states], they have typically included additional elements that focused more on malicious invasions of privacy," says Media Coalition executive director David Horowitz. "Elements that include reasonable expectation of privacy, intent to commit harm against the person depicted, the person suffering that harm, and exceptions for pictures that are artistic, newsworthy, or historic."

Although the law was intended to go after so-called "revenge porn" offenses, Horowitz says, "there's a significant risk of being prosecuted" in other ways under this law, which is why the booksellers and publishing organizations have gotten behind the lawsuit.

This suit lays out a laundry-list of seemingly innocent circumstances that plaintiffs believe could be considered felony offenses under the Arizona law.

Just part of the list of circumstances outlined in the lawsuit in which this so-called "revenge porn" law could apply.
Just part of the list of circumstances outlined in the lawsuit in which this so-called "revenge porn" law could apply.

These very concerns were also brought up during the legislative process. Within 48 hours of the bill's introduction by Republican Representative J.D. Mesnard, University of Arizona law professor Derek Bambauer told New Times the bill was "almost certainly unconstitutional."

Yet the bill, after receiving minor amendments, passed the Senate 23-0, the House 54-0, and went on to be signed by Governor Jan Brewer.

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But what did legislators really criminalize?

In a statement, Changing Hands Bookstore owner Gayle Shanks says, "There are books on my shelves right now that might be illegal to sell under this law. How am I supposed to know whether the subjects of these photos gave their permission?"

The suit maintains that the Arizona law violates the First Amendment, the Commerce Clause of U.S. Constitution, and is unconstitutionally vague.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.


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