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Jennifer Lopez — J. Lo newest victim of revenge porn?

September 24, 2015

Yesterday it was reported that Jenifer Lopez is being threatened with the release of a sexual tape. The video reportedly features nudity and “spanking.” 1997, Jenifer Lopez married “waiter” Ojani Noa; it was the Lopez’s first marriage, and undoubtedly the highpoint of the groom’s life.   Like many people, Noa shot footage on the honeymoon, unlike most people, he has spent the past twenty years trying to monetize it. The two have  been involved in litigation for more than a decade – ten times as long as their marriage lasted. First he was upset because after she hired him to work at her restaurant (they were divorced – clearly she was being nice by giving him the work), he was let go. They eventually settled and Noa signed a confidentiality/nondisparagement agreement, and yet he still tried to sell a “tell-all” book about his year of marriage. Later he demanded $5 million to not publish it. At some point Noa remember that honeymoon footage and partnered with sketchy people named Ed Meyer and Claudia Vazquez, who each inexplicably claim to own a portion of the tape. As these ghouls gush that “[t]he videos contain salacious material and are going to shock her fans,” Lopez has been fighting every step of the way, trying to maintain the sexual privacy she, and all people, deserve.

Since at least 2011 Noa has been claiming to have found some sort of “legal loophole” that will allow him to legally release the video. That may or may not be true (it probably isn’t), but it doesn’t matter. Since Noa’s last push to release the tape under a legal loophole theory, things have changed considerably with the law.  Twenty-five states and Washington D.C. have outlawed the nonconsensual distribution of intimate images.  Almost all, within the last two years. In these jurisdictions the unlawful distribution of intimate images is itself a crime punishable by jail time.

Civilized people do not share other people’s sexual images or videos without consent.  It does not matter whether the video features J. Lo or Jane Doe.  The public has no right to sex videos that were created within the context of a private intimate relationship.  In fact, anybody who distributes the video could run afoul of California’s revenge porn criminal law, resulting in a minimum of 45 days in jail.  In addition to that, the offending party faces civil liability under California’s civil revenge porn law, too. So, if one decade of lawsuits wasn’t fun enough. . .

A new federal revenge porn law is about to be introduced. Some misguided people argue that the law should contain language requiring that the perpetrators have the intent to harm the victim.  However, this case, like when nude celebrity images were hacked and shared a year ago, is a prime example of the fact that the offender may be motivated by something other than to harm the victim — like to make money. It will be important for public figures like Jennifer Lopez to join with advocates behind this bill like The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative to ensure that they too are within the reach of the law.

Considering that Gawker is on the wrong end of a $100m lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan after they published a sex tape of his, no reasonable online platform would risk publishing this kind of content without consent.  The age of distributing celebrity — and non celebrities’ — sex tapes is over.  J. Lo’s ex and his business partners need a new cash cow, one that doesn’t involve exploiting another’s sexual privacy.