An Ontario man has been fined $100,000.00 with an additional $42,000.00 in court costs and interest in a recent case. This a Canadian first and the ruling fills a gap in the law concerning the posting of intimate images without the consent of all parties.
With the growth in popularity of image sharing sites like Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat, and the not so coincidental growth in popularity of sexting, the problem of vengeful or malicious posting of intimate images and videos has come to the fore in Canada. Until this ruling there has been no recourse for people who find their most intimate moments suddenly on display on the internet to sue for damages. This kind of ‘sharing’ is really tantamount to cyber-bullying and in real terms once the images are out on the web there is no way to get them back. Threats of image sharing, and actual mage sharing are linked to public shaming and have been linked to suicides worldwide. Rehtaeh Parsons is a Canadian example of what can go very wrong.
In this case the woman in question had gone to the police for help, but as there is no law making it a crime to publish such intimate images without consent the police could not take action. As the woman was over 18 the case was not covered by child pornography legislation.
Justice David Stinson of the Ontario Superior Court wrote in his ruling:
“It is appropriate to regard this as tantamount to multiple assaults on [the woman’s] dignity … it is impossible to know how many times the video was downloaded or copied, or whether it is still in circulation … In many ways, it is analogous to a sexual assault,”
This ruling is considered a victory for many in Canada who have had their images circulated without their consent. The former chair for cyberbullying in Nova Scotia was pleased with the ruling saying that it is important, setting precedent and breaking new ground in Canadian common law. Judge Stinson based his ruling on the notions in common law of the breach of confidence and privacy saying:
“One who gives publicity to a matter concerning the private life of another is subject to liability to the other for invasion of the other’s privacy, if the matter publicized or the act of publication (a) would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and (b) is not of legitimate concern to the public.”
The man in the case did not attend the hearing, nor did he offer comment on the ruling. His name is subject to a publication ban, but not an anonymity order. The woman’s lawyers expect to collect on the claim by serving judgement on the man’s employers in the amount of $1000 a month. He has agreed to the terms.