Texas passed a revenge porn law in 2015 which went into effect in September of that year. The wording of it was a bit on the vague side, worrying some legal analysts, but it was a popular measure nonetheless. Here’s how it described the offense in question.

“A person commits an offense of unlawful disclosure of intimate images if without the effective consent of the depicted person, the person intentionally discloses visual material depicting another person with the person’s intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct.”

Before too long, they had one of their first test cases when Jordan Bartlett was accused and later convicted of “sharing” a nude photo of a woman without her consent. Bartlett challenged the law, claiming that it was a violation of his constitutional rights. And now, the 12th Court of Appeals has rendered their verdict. Amazingly, the court agreed with Bartlett, saying the law was too vaguely worded and infringed on his First Amendment rights. (Dalla News)

Is distributing intimate photos of current or previous sexual partners without their consent protected by the First Amendment? A state appeals court says yes.

Now it will be up to the state attorney general’s office to defend the state’s “revenge porn” law, which was passed in 2015 and punishes those who post intimate images from previous or current relationships online. The Tyler-based 12th Court of Appeals said the law is unconstitutional because it’s too broad and infringes on free speech, The Texas Tribune reported.

In his findings in the case, Chief Justice James Worthen said the First Amendment usually prohibits “content-based” restrictions.

The court also said that the law was vague and infringed on the rights of third parties who might unwittingly share intimate images, according to the Associated Press.

I’ll confess that this question seems to be extremely complicated from a legal perspective (at least to this layman, anyway) while appearing totally obvious in terms of common sense. Sadly, common sense and our courts rarely collide in the same sentence.

From the latter angle, if you allow someone to photograph you while naked or engaged in sexual activity, that may be extremely unwise on your part, but it also seems like there would be an obvious question of consent over what they were allowed to do with the images or video. If it’s something you shared as part of an intimate relationship, isn’t the other person obligated to honor your privacy?

Apparently not. So does this come down to a question of something as dry and tedious as copyright protection or ownership of one’s own image? You can’t use pictures or video of anyone (even fully dressed in the public square) for a profit without their consent except under some very limited circumstances. Doing so can open you up to a lawsuit. But that’s less about privacy than basic ownership of their image. In that sense, I suppose a pornographic website could be sued on those grounds if they’re profiting off the videos, but that’s still not a privacy issue.

And where does the First Amendment come into this? I’m failing to see how taking a private picture of someone else and texting it to your friends qualifies as protected speech. Very little of this decision makes sense, but now the Texas state Attorney General will need to defend this law and attempt to have the decision overturned at the next stage of appeals.