Monday, January 13, 2014

HB 49: Unlawful Images

Virginia House Bill 49 is a rerun of other bills that this web site liked, but didn't think went far enough.

Once again, the bill only makes it "unlawful...with the intent to cause substantial emotional distress" (as opposed to, say, the intent to stalk and harass the person?) "to disseminate or sell any videotape, photograph, film...that depicts another person who is totally nude" or depicts the parts of the person's body that would be covered by a bathing suit.

I would like to see legislation making it unlawful to disseminate or sell any image that depicts any recognizable person without the person's consent. Again I remind everybody: A photo of your boss beaming and shaking hands with the President of the United States can easily be digitally modified into a photo of your boss beaming and shaking hands with Public Enemy #1, whoever that may be in any future year. A photo of your ex's face can easily be spliced into a pornographic video. A photo of a quaint Amish family walking beside the road, even if it's only stored in a family photo album and displayed to visiting relatives as a souvenir of a visit to a town that has an Amish community, causes distress to strict Amish people who believe God doesn't want us to take photographs. When will we get laws that recognize that it's just plain obnoxious to snap a photo of anybody who has not consented to be photographed in that time and place, whatever it may be.

Someone recently reviewed the published volume of Sylvia Plath's sketches by lamenting that there were hardly any people in them. But this is as it should be. People have a right not to want images of them even drawn, much less photographed or videotaped. Plath, knowing that she was far from being a professional portrait painter, dabbled in drawings of places she'd been and wildlife she'd studied, but didn't annoy people by trying to draw them. Other decisions she made should only have been as intelligent and public-spirited as that decision was.