September 4, 2014

Copyrights Help Keep Your Privates Private

By Frank Cullen

This week’s massive photo-hacking scandal brought an uncomfortable kind of exposure to public figures who typically embrace the media spotlight. Even those who believe that celebrities too often benefit from a double-standard recoiled in disgust this week over allegations that hundreds of private nude and risqué photos had been posted online.

Common decency teaches us that all individuals have a reasonable expectation to some degree of privacy, even those celebrities who share so much of their personal lives in the public arena.  That notion was callously ignored by hackers who shamelessly posted images of not only naked A-list celebrities but also an underage, teenage athlete.  Fortunately, many of these images are no longer available online thanks to existing copyright protections that enabled the outraged victims to demand their removal from legitimate online sites.  Websites such as Reddit had no choice but to comply, remove the offending photos, or face criminal prosecution.  Sadly, online sites that earn obscene amounts of money by providing illegal content reportedly continue to offer these private images as Internet criminals continue to dodge the law.

While it may be hard for some to feel much sympathy for celebrities who seem obsessed with securing a never-ending succession of intrusive media coverage, when personal, private photos are stolen from secure servers and displayed publicly on the Internet, all of us feel the impact because our private digital footprint is vulnerable.  What once was a concern only for the movie and recording industries is now a concern for private citizens who are increasingly at risk of having their private property stolen and exploited online.  In the Internet age, virtually everyone understands that one private moment shared online can have devastating consequences and will never be completely purged from the online environment.

Hopefully, this sordid episode has made it crystal clear that appropriate protections are essential to protecting not only intellectual property but sometimes an individual’s, even a celebrity’s, privacy as well.

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