Hulk Award Shows Danger Of Private Tapes
The incredible $US115 million awarded by a jury in an American court to pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan over the broadcast of a grainy sex tape throws the issue of breaches of privacy into costly new heights.
Hogan – real name Terry Bollea– had been secretly filmed by the husband of the woman he was having sex with, and sued the online New York based gossip blog Gawker that posted 100 seconds of the tape on its website.
Hogan wanted $US100 million from Gawker for “hurt and humiliation” for breaching his privacy. But the jury decided Hulk should get even more and awarded the bulky moustachioed bandana-wearing wrestling ‘good guy’ $US15 million extra for his emotional distress.
While Gawker will appeal against the size of the award – and such enormous awards aren’t possible in Australia – issues around broadcasting on the internet of adult sex tapes without the permission of those involved is a hot legal topic in Australia.
Anneka Frayne, associate lawyer at Stacks Law Firm, points out two parliamentary committees have recommended so-called revenge porn – where intimate sex tapes involving a former partner are posted online against their will as an act of revenge – become a federal crime.
“A Senate and NSW parliamentary committee recommended allowing victims of such intimate tapes to be able to sue the perpetrators for invasions of privacy,” Ms Frayne said.
“The committee was told intimate images were being increasingly used in domestic violence cases to control the partner and threatening to release them if they left the relationship.”
In Canberra two MPs introduced a private members bill to make it a crime to distribute sexually explicit images of someone without their consent. Website operators who carried such material could face five years jail.
“It is a far bigger problem than most people realise,” Ms Frayne said. “A university survey found one in ten Australian adults had had an intimate image sent to others without their permission.
“Under UK law one person has been jailed and many others successful prosecuted for so-called revenge porn.
“It can have a devastating and distressing impact on the victims who are nearly always women – the feeling of betrayal, embarrassment, damage done to reputation in the family, community and workplace.”
Ms Frayne said victims should seek legal advice on whether action can be taken under section 474.17 of the Criminal Code which states it is a crime to use a carriage service to “menace, harass or cause offence” against the perpetrator and the online carrier of the images.
“A lawyer may help get perpetrators or the carriers to remove the images.”