Vermont House Bill 105


Summary

Vermont House Bill 105 would make it a crime to disseminate or copy any image of another person nude or engaging in sexual conduct if:

  • one knows or should have known that the person in the image did not consent.

A violation is subject to up to 6 months in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

The bill was amended to require that:

  • the person depicted is identifiable, either from the image or information offered in connection with the image;
  • the disclosure is done with the intent to harm, harass, intimidate, threaten or coerce the person depicted; and
  • the disclosure would cause a reasonable person to suffer harm.
  • There is an exception for disclosures of materials that constitute a matter of public concern.

Status

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the amended bill into law. It goes into effect July 1, 2015.

Analysis

The bill would apply to artistic, historical and newsworthy images, both in print and online. It makes no distinction between a hacker who releases private photos and a publisher who prints images of torture at Abu Ghraib prison. It sweeps in not just malicious invaders of privacy, but also countless Internet users who innocently report online images.

The Supreme Court has held that speech cannot be criminalized because we believe it is low value and offensive, embarrassing or hurtful. In recent cases, the Court repeatedly declined to create new categories of unprotected speech, even for speech that many find offensive or upsetting.

History

  • The bill was introduced [2] on February 3, 2015 and referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. The Committee recommended the bill be passed.
  • The House passed [3] the bill on March 18, 2015 and sent to the Senate for consideration. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
  • On April 2, 2015, Media Coalition sent a legal memo [1] to the members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, explaining the constitutional issues with the bill.
  • The Senate Committee on Judiciary amended [4] the bill to include the intent requirement, among other narrowing provisions. The Committee recommended the bill be passed.
  • On April 23, 2015, the Senate passed the amended bill. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments and proposed minor changes to the bill. The House sent the bill back to the Senate with their minor changes. The Senate concurred with the House’s changes.
  • The bill was enrolled [5] on May 7, 2015. The bill was sent to Gov. Peter Shumlin for his signature.
  • On June 17, 2015, Gov. Shumlin signed the amended bill into law. It goes into effect July 1, 2015.

Last updated: Sep 3, 2015