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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Revenge Porn: Internet Abuse and its Remedy

Imagine the person with whom you are having an affair does not accept your effort to break it off.  Imagine further that you've had the bad judgment to allow this person to take nude digital images of you during your tryst.

What seemed like a good idea in the heat of the moment now threatens to ruin your life.  Can you convince a court to enjoin this person from creating a web site monument to your activities?

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court said, "yes" in the case of Ellen Clark vs John McLane.  The following salacious facts are taken directly from the Maine High Court's opinion:
Clark and McLane were engaged in an intimate relationship for several months from 2011 to 2012.  On January 13, 2013, after their relationship had ended and after Clark had notified McLane’s wife of the affair, McLane sent an email to Clark containing a litany of insulting and derogatory remarks.  He informed her that he and created a website in her name on which he planned to post nude photographs of her, and that he was also setting up accounts with three major search engines so that any search of her name would first yield a result for the website that he had created.  In addition, he told her that he was creating an account on a video-sharing website in her name, that he would be sharing the websites with her friends, that he had already gathered eighteen or more email addresses from her work colleagues to share the websites with them, and that potential employers would see the websites as well.  McLane further stated that ‘[g]uys will have your cell number, as well as your work number to a hold of you [sic] and ask you out.’  McLane provided a link to a website in her name that he had already set up; it consisted of a single page stating, ‘The naked pictures of EJ Clark will be coming soon…along with her cell phone number and her work number for your to call and arrange a date.’
Wow, jeeze and yikes all in one gasp.  Yes, this has really happened folks; this guy is out there, in spades.

The trial court enjoined McLane from having any contact with Clark, so she will not need to worry about future heart-stopping emails from this jerk.  The court also enjoined him to, "immediately disable any sites/efforts designed to disseminate any information about [Clark] to others..."  Incredibly, McLane appealed.

The legal question posed in the appeal is whether a court sitting in equity can enjoin a person from abusive conduct under facts such as those set forth above which, by the way, are undisputed.  McLane conceded that he sent the email referenced above, arguing in a two-page appellate brief that, "the ONLY conduct appellant engaged in was to send an inappropriate email and create an empty website."  Really...?

In rejecting McLane's argument that the undisputed facts of this case are insufficient to support a finding that his conduct was abusive, the High Court affirmed the injunction against McLane on the basis of a plain reading of Maine's "protection from abuse" statute that procribes a "dating partner" like these two lovebirds from committing "any form of abuse" to the other partner.  The Clark decision deconstructs the term "abuse" in excruciating detail.

Calling a spade a spade, what Mr. McLane threatened to do to his former lover was abusive; even the threat of such conduct was abusive in our simple mind over here at the Law Blogger.

But here's the real lesson, and its for folks like Ms. Clark: when you are venturing out into the choppy waters of infidelity, take exceedingly great care in your selection of a fellow sinner, as the consequences flowing from your selection can easily swamp your ship.  The other corollary to this tale is that digital pics in the wrong hands can cause great pain thus, think twice before allowing someone to record your image.

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