Digital images are very difficult to delete once they have been uploaded to the internet. Images can be copied, renamed and redistributed very easily and quickly. Now that mobile phones are so common and are able to capture and share image and video files, non-consensual use of those files is on the rise.
The Intimate Image Protection Act will become law on Monday. The legislation was introduced by the Government in response to the increase in frequency of these types of cases. On June 9, 2015, Gord Mackintosh, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, introduced the bill, commenting:
This bill helps Manitobans cyberbullied or victimized by the distribution of nude or intimate images by enabling lawsuits for damages and other relief, and establishing Manitoba’s own Cybertip.ca of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to help get those images down from the Internet or connect victims to criminal and civil remedies. (The Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, Hansard – June 9, 2015)
The Act creates the Tort of Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images, and outlines remedies available to the court.
14(1) In an action for the non-consensual distribution of an intimate image, the court may
(a) award damages to the plaintiff, including general, special, aggravated and punitive damages;
(b) order the defendant to account to the plaintiff for any profits that have accrued to the defendant as a result of the non-consensual distribution of the intimate image;
(c) issue an injunction on such terms and with such conditions that the court determines appropriate in the circumstances; and
(d) make any other order that the court considers just and reasonable in the circumstances.
In many cases, the images or movies can never be totally deleted. It is very important for everyone to be very cautious about sharing any private information over the internet. The new Act provides for a clear path for a civil claim against a person who shares intimate images without consent and new support to victims, but the most effective protection is to avoid sharing private images with anyone in the first place.
The problem with digital files is that they can be copied, saved and transmitted easily, and the computers on which they are stored are not always secure. The people with access to the computer with the intimate files on it can not always be trusted, aren’t necessarily computer savvy, or don’t always have good judgement. Sometimes the sharing is inadvertent or intended for only a select few and somewhere along the way the file is released to a larger audience. The consequences of releasing intimate images of another person are so serious, it would be reasonable to use extreme caution if creating or possessing private image or video files.
* The information in this post is not legal advice.