But is it a sex crime? Physical acts like rape, child molestation and indecent exposure are obviously sex crimes. So is possession or distribution of child pornography.
But when adults are the subject of illicit photos or videos, the crime of distributing them without consent is usually called something else, whether or not sex is involved. Here are six examples:
1. Wiretapping: When Christopher Chaney hacked into the e-mail accounts of more than 50 people, including actors Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johansson, and distributed stolen nude photos, he was prosecuted under a federal wiretapping statue. He pleaded guilty in 2012, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $66,179.
2. A tort: A Florida woman named Holly Jacobs filed a civil suit against her ex over nude photos of her he allegedly posted online. The suit is based on two civil claims, or torts: public disclosure of private facts and intentional infliction of emotional distress, which are tough to prove.
4. Invasion of privacy: In 2004, New Jersey adopted an invasion of privacy law that made it a felony to distribute sexual photos of another person without their permission. The law is considered a model for revenge-porn laws.
5. Revenge porn: Some states have revenge porn laws which make it illegal to distribute private, sexually-explicit photos or videos online without consent of the person who appears in them — something that might be considered a sex crime. In such cases, the distributor is often a spurned lover, but may also be a hacker.
Arizona and Idaho are the only states to make revenge porn a felony on the first offense. In Georgia and Utah, it is a felony on the second offense. Some of these laws have been criticized as overly broad. The American Civil Liberties Union alleges in a lawsuit that the Arizona law is unconstitutional.
6. A copyright violation: If victims don’t know who posted their stolen photos online, they might succeed in having Web sites take them down. In general, Web sites are not held responsible for material posted by others. However, they do have to take down images protected by copyright. That includes selfies. This, unfortunately, is not a very good solution, as photos can re-posted to numerous sites and widely distributed by the time a take-down request is granted.
The FBI is currently investigating the hack that targeted Jennifer Lawrence and other A-list actresses.
“Time does heal, you know,” Lawrence tells Kashner. “I’m not crying about it anymore. I can’t be angry anymore. I can’t have my happiness rest on these people being caught, because they might not be. I need to just find my own peace.”