Rhode Island House Bill 5770 and Senate Bills 625 and 630


Summary

Rhode Island House Bill 5770 and Senate Bills 625 and 630 would bar the distribution of a nude or sexually explicit image if:

  • done without the consent of the person depicted or all persons depicted in the image; and
  • if the person who distributes the image knew or should have known that the person depicted in the image had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

There is a catchall to the legislation for “constitutionally protected material.”

A violation is subject to the three years in prison, a fine of up to $3,000, or both.

Status

The Rhode Island legislature adjourned its 2015 session. It does not carry over bills to 2016, so the bills are dead.

Analysis

The bill is not limited to criminalizing malicious invasion of privacy. There is no requirement that the person who distributes the image do so with an intent to harass, threaten or torment the person depicted. There is no requirement that the person depicted suffer serious harm. The person in the image does not even have to be identifiable. As a result, the legislation makes no distinction between a hacker who releases private photos and a publisher who prints images of torture at Abu Ghraib prison.

H.B. 5770 and S.B. 630 include a provision that re-publishers are not liable unless they have actual knowledge that the picture was initially disseminated illegally. But since the crime for initial publications includes anyone who receives the image and subsequently disseminates it, anyone who republishes the image could still be prosecuted as an original publisher of the image.

History – H.B. 5770

  • The bill was introduced [2] on February 26, 2015 and referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.
  • The House Committee on Judiciary held a hearing on the bill on March 11, 2015. The Committee recommended the bill be held for further study.
  • The House Committee on Judiciary held a second hearing on the bill on March 17, 2015. The Committee recommended the bill be passed.
  • Media Coalition submitted a memo in opposition [1] to H.B. 5770 and its companion bills on March 27, 2015.
  • On April 7, 2015, the House voted to re-refer the bill to the House Committee on Judiciary so it can be considered with its companion bill, S.B. 630.
  • The Rhode Island legislature adjourned its 2015 session. It does not carry over bills to 2016, so the bills are dead.

History – S.B. 625

  • The bill was introduced [3] on March 5, 2015 and referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
  • The Senate Committee on Judiciary held a hearing on the bill on March 24, 2015. The Committee recommended the bill be held for further study.
  • Media Coalition submitted a memo in opposition [1] to S.B. 625 and its companion bills on March 27, 2015.
  • The Rhode Island legislature adjourned its 2015 session. It does not carry over bills to 2016, so the bills are dead.

History – S.B. 630

  • The bill was introduced [4] on March 5, 2015 and referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
  • The Senate Committee on Judiciary held a hearing on the bill on March 24, 2015. The Committee recommended the bill be passed.
  • Media Coalition submitted a memo in opposition [1] to S.B. 630 and its companion bills on March 27, 2015.
  • On April 7, 2015, the Senate passed S.B. 630 and sent it to the House. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.
  • The Rhode Island legislature adjourned its 2015 session. It does not carry over bills to 2016, so the bills are dead.

Last updated: Sep 3, 2015