Does a Person Have a Copyright in Her Picture if She Has Not Obtained a Registration from the United States Copyright Office?

Does a person have a copyright in her picture if she has not obtained a registration from the United States Copyright Office? The answer is yes and no.

Generally, a person will have a common law copyright in a picture that they have taken. A good example is a “selfie,” i.e. a picture taken of oneself with a cell phone. Under certain circumstances, the common law will provide enough rights to allow someone to send a cease and desist letter if a picture is being used without consent.

However, the better approach is to file an application with the United States Copyright Office. The reason is that this provides for enhanced protections (statutory damages and attorney’s fees reimbursement).

© 2014 Nissenbaum Law Group, LLC

Are Internet Publishers Responsible for Advertisements for Potential Sexual Liaisons with Minors?

Are internet publishers responsible for advertisements for potential sexual liaisons with  minors?  In the middle of last year, a US District Court for the District of New Jersey found that a New Jersey Statute creating such responsibility was likely unconstitutional. After that ruling, the parties negotiated and earlier this month, they settled. As part of the settlement, there will be a permanent injunction prohibiting the statute from being enforced.

The case, Backpage.com LLC v. Hoffman et al., United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (Civil Action No.: 2:13-CV-03952), involved a challenge by Backpage.com and Internet Archive seek to avoid punishment for posting such advertisements. The statute in question, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-10, New Jersey’s Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act, sets forth strict anti-trafficking laws. It states,

A person commits the offense of advertising commercial sexual abuse of a minor if:

(1)   the person knowingly publishes, disseminates, or displays, or causes directly or indirectly, to be published, disseminated, or displayed, any advertisement for a commercial sex act, which is to take place in this State and which includes the depiction of a minor; or

(2)   the person knowingly purchases advertising in this State for a commercial sex act which includes the depiction of a minor.

Violators could be guilty of a first-degree criminal offenses. A publisher could not hide behind the defense that they were unaware of the depicted person’s age without substantial proof; they would need to demonstrate they made a legitimate attempt to determine the minor’s age by requiring identification.

Backpage.com and Internet Archive proposed an order to permanently enjoin enforcement of N.J.S.A. 2C:13-10. They wanted to stop its enforcement perpetually on the grounds that it violated the Communications Decency Act (which treats online service providers as not responsible for third party materials) and the First and Fourteenth Amendments. They claimed the provision violated free speech and due process as well as imposed criminal liability without proof of intent. They also asserted that it would be impractical to demand identification of everyone posting such online advertisements.

Ultimately, the parties settled for a permanent injunction preventing enforcement of the statute.

© 2014 Nissenbaum Law Group, LLC

What Should the Damages be in a Case Involving 18 U.S.C.§ 2259 (Possession of Child Pornography)?

How much restitution should be imposed for the possession of child pornography?  The federal mandatory restitution statute, 18 U.S.C.§ 2259, appears to have the answer. It states that a defendant shall pay a victim of child pornography the full amount of the victim’s losses, which is  defined as follows:

For purposes of this subsection, the term “full amount of the victim’s losses” includes any costs incurred by the victim for

(A) medical services relating to physical, psychiatric, or psychological care;

(B) physical and occupational therapy or rehabilitation;

(C) necessary transportation, temporary housing, and child care expenses;

(D) lost income;

(E) attorneys’ fees, as well as other costs incurred; and

(F) any other losses suffered by the victim as a proximate result of the offense.

18 U.S.C.§ 2259(b)(3).

But how should this very generic formula be applied? Under § 2259, a victim is defined as someone who suffered specified harm “as a result of” another’s unlawful conduct.  In other words, the wrongdoer’s harm must have caused the victim’s losses and therefore the wrongdoer is liable for the losses.  Causation becomes an issue where one individual is in possession of photographs depicting abuse and thousands of other anonymous people have access to the same photographs.  Obviously, the victim can be harmed by the fact that everyone has viewed the child pornography.  Therefore who should be on the hook for the full amount of the victim’s losses?

On April 23, 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided this issue in Paroline v. United States,          U.S.                 (2014). In that case, Mr. Paroline was convicted of possessing 280 explicit photographs of an underage girl who was referred to as “Amy.” The photographs depicting the abuse had been viewed several thousand times by others throughout the world.  The question was should the damages be assessed solely against Paroline; against everyone who viewed the images; or some combination of the two.  During oral argument, the Justices were skeptical that a reasonable formula could be reached to balance all the factors involved.

Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy held that it was unfair to assess damages against the defendant that did not proximately stem from the injury, i.e. were not the proximate cause. The court was concerned about the remote nature of damages stemming from viewing images which the viewer had no role in producing. Nevertheless, the court did say that the trial judge could take restitution into account in assessing some level of damages, but again, proximate cause would have to be shown.

© 2014 Nissenbaum Law Group, LLC

Does 18 U.S.C. 2257 Violate the Fourth Amendment?

The Free Speech Coalition has obtained a landmark ruling applying limited fourth amendment protections to prevent unannounced inspections of records kept under 18 U.S.C. 2257.  Specifically, in Free Speech Coalition, Inc. v.  The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr, EDNY (09-4607) (July 18, 2013), [READ CASE HERE] the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that
[T]he Court finds Sections 2257 and 2257A and their corresponding regulations to be constitutional under the First Amendment, both as-applied and facially. It also finds the Statutes and regulations to be constitutional under the Fourth Amendment, except for in one regard – the allowance of inspections at the residences of producers, without prior notice, cannot be justified on this record.
Id. at 2.

          The basis for the ruling was that the government could not demonstrate that the requirement met the constitutional standard. As the Court stated, “[g]iven these two streams of evidence in the record – demonstrating advance notice would not undermine the regulatory scheme, but a lack of such notice significantly burdens producers who maintain records at home – the Court finds the regulations’ lack of a notice requirement, as to searches at bona fide residences, unreasonable …” Id. at 69.

          The Court focused on the fact that many producers of adult content keep the records in their homes. Therefore, the requirement that the FBI be allowed to inspect the records without advance notice meant that the residents would be burdened by the need to remain on premises to allow access. This burden was found to be unconstitutional.

Comments/Questions: gdn@gdnlaw.com
© 2014 Nissenbaum Law Group, LLC

Do Revenge Websites Violate 18 U.S.C. 2257?

18 U.S.C. 2257 generally serves as an insurmountable impediment to posting a person’s sexually explicit photographs on a revenge porn site. These sites consist of video and still pictures that are posted without the consent of the person being photographed. Normally, they stem from either (a) former lovers who received the pictures for their private use when the relationship was still viable or (b) spurned suitors who wish to take out their anger on the person whose photographs they happened to obtain.

Either way, it is a virtual certainty that 18 U.S.C 2257 will not be complied with; it requires the photographed person’s identification to be provided to a custodian of records. Since the person being photographed presumably did not agree to have the photographs posted (or may not know about it at all), it is highly likely that it will be impossible to obtain that identifying documentation.

There are at least two suits currently pending against revenge porn sites based upon the violation of a duty of care established by 18 U.S.C 2257. Once such suit is against Texxxan.com and the other against Ugotposted.com.  

These suits are highly significant for another reason. Since 18 U.S.C 2257 was not complied with, there is no way of being certain that the photographs involved persons who are of age. The intent of the law is to prevent of dissemination of child pornography; its violation may very well lead to that result.

Does the 5th Amendment Protect Producers of Sexually Explicit Material From Self-Incrimination?

In in re: Grand Jury Subpoena Duces, 368 F. Supp. 2d 846 (W.D. Tenn. 2005), John Doe 1 & 2 (collectively, “Petitioners”) were served with a subpoena to testify before a Federal Grand Jury. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §2257, the subpoena required the Petitioners to bring with them any and all records pertaining to models used by their company Petitioners attempted to quash the subpoena by arguing that it violated their 5th Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination. The United States asserted that the 5th Amendment did not protect the Petitioners because the documents requested were records required to be kept pursuant to §2257.

§2257(a) states:

Whoever produces any book, magazine, periodical, film, videotape, digital image, digitally- or computer-manipulated image of an actual human being, picture, or other matter which—

(1) contains one or more visual depictions made after November 1, 1990 of actual sexually explicit conduct; and

(2) is produced in whole or in part with materials which have been mailed or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, or is shipped or transported or is intended for shipment or transportation in interstate or foreign commerce;

shall create and maintain individually identifiable records pertaining to every performer portrayed in such a visual depiction.

In Shapiro v. United States, the Supreme Court held that the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination does not apply to records that are required to be kept pursuant to a valid regulatory scheme. Shapiro v. United States, 335 U.S. 1, 17-18, 68 S.Ct. 1375, 92 L.Ed. 1787 (1948). However, the “required records” exception is construed narrowly in preservation of the 5th Amendment’s constitutional purpose. United States v. White, 322 U.S. 694, 699, 64 S.Ct. 1248, 88 L.Ed. 1542 (1944). The government’s request for information will be granted under the exception if it meets the following three requirements:

(1)   the purpose of the government’s inquiry must be essentially regulatory, rather than criminal;

(2)   the records must contain the type of information that the regulated party would ordinarily keep; and

 (3)   the records must have assumed public aspect which render them at least analogous to public documents.

(citing Grosso v. United States, 390 U.S. 62, 67-68, 88 S.Ct. 709, 19 L.Ed.2d 906 (1968)).

The Supreme Court explained that §2257 targets a specific group of people. Specifically, it targets producers of media depicting sexually explicit conduct that utilizes performers who either are, or appear to be, minors. Additionally, the Court noted that although the record keeping requirement applies to “all producers of media depicting sexually explicit conduct,” it is not necessarily regulatory. The requirement does not foreclose the possibility that it targets a select group inherently suspect of criminal activities. Further, the production and distribution of child pornography is inherently illegal.

The Supreme Court concluded that §2257 is not regulatory in nature. This is because it targets a highly selective group that is inherently suspect of criminal activities, and is a part of a criminal enforcement scheme that seeks eradication of child pornography. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted Petitioners’ motion to quash the subpoenas because the government did not meet the first prong of the required records exception, to wit: that the purpose of the government’s inquiry must be essentially regulatory, rather than criminal. 

Does §2257 Apply To A Breastfeeding Video That is Used Illegally by an Adult Website?

Does a
producer of a breastfeeding instructional video have to abide by §2257? What
about the mother who volunteers to allow herself and her baby to be filmed? How
about somebody who illegally uses the breastfeeding video to create an adult
video?

This was
addressed in a case heard in M.S.  v. Meredith Corporation, United States
District Court of New Jersey,  August 2,
2012 (Civil Action No. 11-cv-5180). In that case, the plaintiff, a new mother,
volunteered to allow the defendant, a media and marketing corporation that aims
at educating women on various topics, film a “how to” video for breastfeeding.
The defendant did not pay the plaintiff for filming the video; the plaintiff
felt as if her experience as a new mother could help women who are considering
breastfeeding. According to the plaintiff, the defendant promised her that
neither her name nor that of her daughter would be revealed. The plaintiff also
claimed that the defendant told her the video would only be played on the
defendant’s website and on cable television for educational purposes.

Unfortunately,
while searching her name on the internet, the plaintiff discovered that the
video of her breastfeeding was being displayed by an adult website. That
website included both her full name and her daughter’s first name on the video.
A man named “Nizard” was the culprit. He had access to the video because the
video had been posted on YouTube by the defendants. This was done in spite of
the fact that plaintiff had been assured it would not.

18 USC §2257
makes it a federal crime to fail to comply with certain record keeping and
reporting requirements. Such requirements must be followed when one produces a film,
book, magazine etc. which includes “sexually explicit conduct.” “Sexually
explicit conduct” is defined under §2256 (2)(A):

“Sexually explicit conduct” means
actual or simulated—

(i)   sexual
intercourse, including genital—genital, oral-genital, anal—genital, or oral
anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex.;

(ii)  bestiality;

(iii) masturbation;

(iv) sadistic
or masochistic; or

(v)  lascivious
exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person;

Applying
both §2257 and §2256, it would appear that only Nizard would be liable under
the statute; not the mother nor the defendant. The only way the mother or the
defendant would be liable under §2257 is if breastfeeding were considered
“sexually explicit conduct.” Interpreting the statute makes it clear that it is
not. Breastfeeding clearly does not fall into one of the sexual acts listed in
§2256. While the statute states that sexually explicit conduct includes “sexual
intercourse, including genital—genital, oral-genital, anal—genital, or oral
anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex” which clearly
breastfeeding is not. Further, one would be hard-pressed to argue before a
Court that breastfeeding a newborn has a sexual component in the first place;
hence the intent of the statute clearly is not to include it within the law’s
purview.

However,
when Nizard illegally added the video to an adult website, he entered the realm
of §2257. Although, the pornographic scenes which Nizard combined with the breastfeeding
video are not described in the case, it is likely that such scenes involve at
least one of the acts listed in (i) through (v) of §2256. Thus, under such
assumption, a §2257 claim against Nizard for failure to follow reporting
requirements would be available against him.

Comments/Questions: gdn@gdnlaw.com

© 2012 Nissenbaum Law Group, LLC

Does 18 U.S.C. 2257 Apply To A Sims Cartoon Movie?

Recently, an enterprising producer of adult content created a pornographic film utilizing the Sims cartoon characters.  While of course, this is likely a trademark and copyright violation – since it is doubtful that the owners of the Sims software would license their intellectual property for creating an adult film – the question arises as to whether it is also a violation of 18 U.S.C. 2257.

The answer is not straight forward.  The video appears to utilize pilfered content from the Sims imagery which is not adult oriented.  However, it intersperses that material with actual adult content involving actual actors.  Therefore, it is likely that 18 U.S.C. 2257 would apply.

We would be interested in hearing any thoughts that readers of this blog might have on this topic.

Comments/Questions: gdn@gdnlaw.com

© 2012 Nissenbaum Law Group, LLC

What is the Relationship Between Violating 18 U.S.C. 2257 and Violating Section 2252A of the Child Pornography Protection Act of 1995?

If a defendant fails to adhere to the record-keeping provisions of section 2257 has he also violated section 2252A of the Child Pornography Protection Act?  The Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan recently addressed this question in Doe v. Peterson, No. 2:09-cv-13138-PDB-PJK (E.D. Mich. March 24, 2011).

In that case, Plaintiff sued the owners of a website that posted nude pictures of Plaintiff sent from an unknown person that were intended to remain private between Plaintiff and her boyfriend.  Even after Plaintiff contacted the site asking that the pictures be removed because they were submitted without her consent, the pictures remained on the website.  Plaintiff claimed that she was a minor when the pictures were taken and relayed this information to the site when she initially contacted them.  It was only after being served with the complaint that the photos were taken down a day later.

Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that Defendant violated 18 U.S.C. §2252A(a)(2), which prohibits any person from knowingly receiving or distributing child pornography that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce.  Id. at 5.  Plaintiff moved for summary judgment and claimed that there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Defendant knowingly participated in receiving or distributing child pornography. See Id.  Plaintiff claimed that because Defendant violated §2257, which requires publishers of pornographic material to verify the age of models, Defendant could not therefore claim he did not know how old Plaintiff was.  Id. 

Defendant’s website encouraged men to submit nude pictures of their ‘ex-girlfriends, ex-wives, current girlfriend or wife, or any female showing her stuff.’ Id. at 2.  Although the site contained “submission rules” requiring that models be 18 or older, Defendant admitted that he had no real way of knowing if people followed the rules.  The only safeguard Defendant took was judging to see whether the models could pass for 18. See id. Defendant claimed that he never was the recipient of any correspondence from Plaintiff regarding her request that the photos be taken down nor did he receive an email stating that Plaintiff was underage.  However, Plaintiff argued that Defendant’s claim to have not received the emails, coupled with Defendants failure to follow the verification requirements of §2257, demonstrated that the Defendant was “deliberately ignorant” of Plaintiffs age.  Plaintiff claimed this could satisfy the “knowingly” requirement of §2252A.  Further, Plaintiff argued that if nothing else, the fact the Defendant didn’t remove her pictures until one day after receiving the complaint showed that Defendant undisputedly knew Plaintiff was a minor, in violation of §2252A.

The Court disagreed with Plaintiffs position.  First, because Plaintiffs age at the time the photos were originally taken was at issue, this rendered Plaintiffs request for summary judgment inappropriate.  Further, the Court stated that even if Plaintiff’s age was not in dispute, Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment would still be denied because violation of §2257 does not necessarily establish that Defendant “knowingly” violated section 2252A. The court noted that the Defendant did not have actual knowledge that Plaintiff was a minor because the correspondence did not contain any real evidence of  Plaintiffs age, such as a birth certificate, so at most, Defendant had “inquiry notice,” requiring the Defendant to investigate the matter further . See id. at 6.

The Court agreed with Defendant’s contention that there was no reason to suspect that Plaintiff was a minor from looking at the pictures posted on the website and so Defendant should not be found deliberately indifferent. Id.  Further, the court did not take issue with the timeframe with which the Defendant removed the photos from the website after being served with the complaint.  At most, the Court found that Plaintiff’s allegations established that there were issues of material fact regarding whether the Defendant knew Plaintiff was a minor, but this did not amount to proof that 18 U.S.C. §2252A was violated as a matter of law. See id. at 7. Ultimately, Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment was denied.

The best practice is to verify the age of participants when posting anything associated with the adult industry.  One should be cautious of the possibility of interacting with minors and take measures to ensure that the subject’s age is accounted for. 

Comments/Questions: gdn@gdnlaw.com

© 2012 Nissenbaum Law Group, LLC

Does the Activity Underlying Adult Content Violate Prostitution Laws?

One of the unanswered questions in the adult industry is to what extent the prostitution laws prohibit the activities underlying the adult content.  The position taken by Arizona officials on this issue is that the activity underlying adult content would violate their prostitution laws.  See http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2012/03/bill_montgomerys_warning_to_th.php

The relevant law is contained in Title 13, Section 3201 et seq.  of the Arizona Revised Statutes. It states:

13-3201: Enticement of persons for purpose of prostitution; classification

A person who knowingly entices any other person into a house of prostitution, or elsewhere, for the purpose of prostitution with another person, is guilty of a class 6 felony.

13-3202: Procurement by false pretenses of person for purpose of prostitution; classification

A person who knowingly, by any false pretenses, false representations or other fraudulent means, procures any other person to have illicit carnal relation with another person, is guilty of a class 6 felony.

13-3203: Procuring or placing persons in house of prostitution; classification

A person who knowingly receives money or other valuable thing, for, or on account of, procuring or placing in a house of prostitution, or elsewhere, any person for the purpose of prostitution is guilty of a class 5 felony.

13-3204: Receiving earnings of prostitute; classification

A person who knowingly receives money or other valuable thing from the earnings of a person engaged in prostitution, is guilty of a class 5 felony.

13-3205: Causing spouse to become prostitute; classification

A person who knowingly by force, fraud, intimidation or threats, causes his or her spouse to live in a house of prostitution or to lead a life of prostitution, is guilty of a class 5 felony.

13-3207: Detention of persons in house of prostitution for debt; classification

A person who knowingly detains any person in a house of prostitution because of a debt such person has contracted or is said to have contracted, is guilty of a class 5 felony.

13-3208: Keeping or residing in house of prostitution; employment in prostitution; classification

A.  A person who knowingly is an employee at a house of prostitution or prostitution enterprise is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.

B.  A person who knowingly operates or maintains a house of prostitution or prostitution enterprise is guilty of a class 5 felony.

13-3209: Pandering; definitions; methods; classification

A person is guilty of a class 5 felony who knowingly:

1. Places any person in the charge or custody of any other person for purposes of prostitution.

2. Places any person in a house of prostitution with the intent that such person lead a life of prostitution.

3. Compels, induces or encourages any person to reside with that person, or with any other person, for the purpose of prostitution.

4. Compels, induces or encourages any person to lead a life of prostitution.

13-3210: Transporting persons for purpose of prostitution or other immoral purpose; classification; venue

A person knowingly transporting by any means of conveyance, through or across this state, any other person for the purposes of prostitution or concubinage, or for any other immoral purposes, is guilty of a class 5 felony. The prosecution of such person may be in any county in which such person is apprehended.

13-3211: Definitions

For the purposes of this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:

1. “Employee” means a person who conducts lawful or unlawful business for another person under a master-servant relationship or as an independent contractor and who is compensated by wages, commissions, tips or other valuable consideration.

2. “House of prostitution” means any building, structure or place used for the purpose of prostitution or lewdness or where acts of prostitution occur.

3. “Operate and maintain” means to organize, design, perpetuate or control. Operate and maintain includes providing financial support by paying utilities, rent, maintenance costs or advertising costs, supervising activities or work schedules, and directing or furthering the aims of the enterprise.

4. “Oral sexual contact” means oral contact with the penis, vulva or anus.

5. “Prostitution” means engaging in or agreeing or offering to engage in sexual conduct with another person under a fee arrangement with that person or any other person.

6. “Prostitution enterprise” means any corporation, partnership, association or other legal entity or any group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity engaged in providing prostitution services.

7. “Sadomasochistic abuse” means flagellation or torture by or upon a person who is nude or clad in undergarments or in revealing or bizarre costume or the condition of being fettered, bound or otherwise physically restrained on the part of one so clothed.

8. “Sexual conduct” means sexual contact, sexual intercourse, oral sexual contact or sadomasochistic abuse.

9. “Sexual contact” means any direct or indirect fondling or manipulating of any part of the genitals, anus or female breast.

10. “Sexual intercourse” means penetration into the penis, vulva or anus by any part of the body or by any object.

13-3214: Prostitution; classification

A. It is unlawful for a person to knowingly engage in prostitution.

B. This section does not prohibit cities or towns from enacting and enforcing ordinances to suppress and prohibit prostitution that provide a punishment for misdemeanor violations that is at least as stringent as provided in this section.

C. For the purposes of sentencing under this section, a previous violation of any city or town ordinance that prohibits prostitution and that has the same or substantially similar elements as this section shall be deemed to be a previous violation of this section.

D. A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor, except that:

1. A person who is convicted of a first violation of this section shall be sentenced to serve not less than fifteen consecutive days in jail and is not eligible for probation or suspension of execution of sentence until the entire sentence is served.

2. A person who is convicted of a second violation of this section shall be sentenced to serve not less than thirty consecutive days in jail and is not eligible for probation or suspension of execution of sentence until the entire sentence is served.

3. A person who is convicted of a third violation of this section shall be sentenced to serve not less than sixty consecutive days in jail, is not eligible for probation or suspension of execution of sentence until the entire sentence is served and shall complete an appropriate court ordered education or treatment program.

4. A person who has previously been convicted of three or more violations of this section and who commits a subsequent violation of this section is guilty of a class 5 felony, shall be sentenced to serve not less than one hundred eighty consecutive days in jail and is not eligible for probation or suspension of execution of sentence until the entire sentence is served. This paragraph does not prohibit a person from being sentenced to serve a period of incarceration in the state department of corrections.

Comments/Questions: gdn@gdnlaw.com

© 2012 Nissenbaum Law Group, LLC