Parents and Teen Sexting victims are not powerless in the fight to stop the spread of Sexual Content with the goal of ultimate destruction of sexual images. An experienced and aggressive Teen Sexting lawyer who is retained by the parents of a victim of Teen Sexting can take legal steps to protect their child.
The toolkit of a Teen Sexting lawyer includes: Legal Agreements, Content Removal Requests, a Petition in Family Court, a lawsuit under New York State or New York City laws, action by the local school district and, if necessary, a police report.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all response for a victim of Teen Sexting. The many tools listed here also apply to victims of Revenge Porn, the unwanted or non-consensual transfer or publication of Intimate Content such as photos or videos. The factors that figure into the response include: the nature of the Sexual Content, the means that the Sexual Content has been communicated and the number of people who have been sent and/or possess the Sexual Content. Each case of Teen Sexting therefore requires a unique and strategic approach.
What Every Parent or Victim of Teen Sexting Should Do Immediately
A parent or victim’s first instinct may be to delete any Intimate Images or communications related to the Intimate Images. Do not delete any evidence related to Teen Sexting, as difficult as it may be. The Intimate Images or communications are important evidence in the fight to contain and eliminate the images.
The first thing a parent of a victim or a victim should do is take screenshots of everything. That means screenshots of text messages, social media accounts, direct messages and any other forms of communications that are related to the Intimate Images. Second, it may also be important to preserve the Intimate Images. The responsible way to preserve the evidence of the Intimate Images is via a flash drive that is kept in a secure place. The evidence related to Teen Sexting is useful in the legal response.
Legal Steps Every Parent of Teen Sexting Victim Should Take
Victims of Teen Sexting have power. In New York, Teen Sexting victims have power because of the various crimes associated with Teen Sexting.
First, Unlawful Dissemination or Publication of an Intimate Image / New York’s Revenge Porn Law applies no matter the age of the person depicted in the Intimate Image. Unlike other Teen Sexting charges, which apply to minors who are less than 17 years old or 16 years old, depending on the charge, Unlawful Dissemination or Publication of an Intimate Image can be pursued if the person in the Intimate Image is 18 or 19 years old, or any age.
Next, receiving Sexual Content of a minor who is less than 17 years old constitute the felony crimes Promoting a Sexual Performance By a Child or Disseminating Indecent Material to Minors. Finally, the possession of Sexual Content of a minor who is less than 16 years old may constitute the crime of Possessing a Sexual Performance By a Child.
Because of the potential crimes committed against victims of Teen Sexting that power can be used as leverage. Among the important tools in fighting Teen Sexting are Copyright Assignments, Non-Disclosure Agreements and Takedown Notices. These legal documents should be drafted by an experienced Teen Sexting lawyer because every case is different. Fill-in-the-blank documents are not advisable when fighting against Teen Sexting.
Teen Sexting / Intimate Content Copyright Assignments
First, generally speaking, the author and the initial copyright owner of a photograph or a video is the person who shoots or takes the photograph or video. That obviously applies to selfies. So, if a teen takes a photograph or video that contains Sexual Content, then he or she already holds the copyright. But what if another person takes a photograph or video of Sexual Content of a teen who is less than 17 years old?
That’s where a Copyright Assignment comes into play. The Copyright Assignment transfers the ownership of a photograph or video typically to a parent of the teenager depicted in the Sexual Content. Why would a person sign a Copyright Assignment? Because the victims of Teen Sexting have the power to enforce New York’s Teen Sexting Laws.
Teen Sexting / Intimate Content Non-Disclosure Agreements
The second tool in fighting Teen Sexting is a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Such agreements can bind a person never to disclose to any person the existence of Sexual Content and/or to destroy all Sexual Content, whether a photograph or video. Such Non-Disclosure agreements can state penalties for the continued possession of illegal Sexual Content and the consequences for the future possession and/or transfer of Sexual Content if not destroyed or later discovered.
A Non-Disclosure Agreement, when signed by all parties, is a legally binding contract. The violation of a fully executed legal agreement could result in civil penalties stated in the agreement. In addition, a Non-Disclosure Agreement can indemnify the victims against future losses or costs as a result of a breach of the agreement.
Teen Sexting / Intimate Content Removal Requests
There are 2 categories of Content Removal requests. First, most websites and apps have Non-Consensual Nudity Policies. Second, every website has procedures for a Takedown Notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act under copyright infringement. The means that a person chooses for a Content Removal request depends on the facts. Quite often it is possible to pursue Content Removal under both Non-Consensual Nudity Policies and as a Takedown Notice.
Teen Sexting / Intimate Content Non-Consensual Nudity Policy Removal
Most social media apps do not allow content that includes nudity or sexual activity. Two prominent examples are Instagram and TikTok. But other social media sites like Twitter do allow nudity and Sexual Content.
Such apps usually have a Non-Consensual Nudity Policy that includes a ban on posting or sharing intimate photos or videos of someone that was produced or distributed without his or her consent. Under such policies, users cannot post or share explicit images or videos that were taken, appear to have been taken or that were shared without the consent of the people involved.
Posting such images is typically a violation of the applicable rules. Violations of Non-Consensual Nudity Policies are usually reportable through the app itself as well as a link to a longer form.
But what about purely pornographic or porn websites? Most mainstream porn sites take Content Removal requests seriously. Porn site Non-Consensual Nudity Policy requests usually fall into one of the following categories:
- Child Pornography
- Revenge Porn
- Intimidation Because a Video or Photo Was Not Authorized
- A Comment Revealing Personally Identifiable Information
When requesting Content Removal under a Non-Consensual Nudity Policy, time is of the essence. While some applications and websites act responsibly, others outside of the jurisdiction of the United States do not. The more time Intimate Content exists the more likely it is to be shared and spread.
Teen Sexting / Intimate Content Takedown Notices
Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA outlines the statutory requirements necessary for formally reporting copyright infringement. This is where a Copyright Assignment is useful if a person does not already own the Intimate or Sexual Content whether an image or video.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was enacted in 1998 and made major changes to U.S. copyright law. The federal law was necessary to comply with the international Copyright Treaty under the World Intellectual Property Organization. Under the Safe Harbor provision of the DMCA, service providers like websites, applications and hosting companies are protected from liability based on allegations of infringing activities of third parties, or copyright infringement, in less fancy terms.
To receive protection under the Safe Harbor provision, service providers who are given notice of copyright infringement must take have procedures to takedown content expeditiously that violates a copyright. Once again, a person must own the content to be successful in a Takedown Notice. Every website and application operating in the United States and even foreign legitimate sites have a mechanism for submitting a Takedown Notice. Without Takedown Notice procedures, a service provider would not be protected under the DMCA.
If a person does not own the Intimate Content that was posted, then a Copyright Assignment is handy to enforce Takedown Notice. A request to remove content under a Non-Consensual Nudity Policy and a Takedown Notice are not mutually exclusive tools in fighting Teen Sexting or the potential online spread of Intimate Content.
Remedies for Teen Sexting in New York Family Court
Another remedy for victims of Teen Sexting is filing a Petition in Family Court for an Order of Protection. Every county in New York State has a Family Court where the Petition may be filed. The purpose of the Petition seeking an Order of Protection is to protect a Teen Sexting victim from further communication and/or dissemination of Intimate Content.
After the Petition is filed, a Teen Sexting victim receives a Temporary Order of Protection. If a Final Order of Protection is granted it will typically be in effect for 2 years. A violation of the Temporary or Final Order can lead to an arrest and prosecution for Criminal Contempt.
The 2 main requirements in filing a Petition for an Order of Protection is that a person seeking the Order and the other person must be related in any of 4 ways and there must be an allegation of a crime. The first requirement in filing a Petition for an Order of Protection is that a person can only file if you and the person you seek to be protected against:
- Were or are in an intimate relationship
- Are related by blood or marriage
- Were legally married; or
- Have a child in common
An intimate relationship does not necessarily mean a sexual relationship however casual acquaintances and ordinary socializing are generally not considered intimate relationships. One the other hand, even if 2 people have not been sexual, the sending or receiving Sexual Content between 2 people may be enough to establish an intimate relationship for the purposes of a Family Court petition.
The second requirement is that a crime was committed against a person. The list of possible crimes that qualify for a Petitioner includes Unlawful Dissemination or Publication of an Intimate Image, Harassment, Aggravated Harassment, Sex Crimes and many Domestic Violence-related crimes.
Revenge Porn Lawsuits
New York’s Revenge Porn Law creates a private right of action, a fancy term for a lawsuit for victims of Teen Sexting and/or the Unlawful Dissemination or Publication of an Intimate Image. In other words, a Revenge Porn lawsuit. Under New York Civil Rights Law Section 52-b, a victim of Teen Sexting can sue both the person disseminated or published the Intimate Content for money damages as well as a website, application or service provider to remove the Intimate Content permanently.
New York Civil Rights Law Section 52-b states: “Any person depicted in a still or video image, regardless of whether or not the original still or video image was consensually obtained, shall have a cause of action against an individual who, for the purpose of harassing, annoying or alarming such person, disseminated or published, or threatened to disseminate or publish, such still or video image, where such image:
- Was taken when such person had a reasonable expectation that the image would remain private; and
- Depicts an unclothed or exposed intimate part of such person; or such person engaging in Sexual Conduct with another person; and
- Was disseminated or published, or threatened to be disseminated or published, without the consent of such person
A person who prevails in an Unlawful Dissemination or Publication of an Intimate Image lawsuit is entitled to punitive damages, compensatory damages and reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees.
In addition, Civil Rights Law Section 52-b states:
Any person depicted in a still or video image that depicts an unclothed or exposed intimate part of such person, or such person engaging in Sexual Conduct with another person, which is disseminated or published without the consent of such person and where such person had a reasonable expectation that the image would remain private, may maintain an action or special proceeding for a court order to require any website [where content is viewable in New York State] to permanently remove such still or video image . . . within such website’s control.
The time limit, known as the Statute of Limitations, for an Unlawful Dissemination or Publication of an Intimate Image lawsuit is either 3 years from the dissimilation or publication of the Initiate Content or 1 year from the date a person discovers or reasonably should have discovered the dissimilation or publication of the Initiate Content.
Thus, if a person knows about the dissimilation or publication of the Initiate Content, he or she has 3 years to file a lawsuit. But if a person were to find out about the dissimilation or publication of the Initiate Content 4 years later, then he or she would have 1 year to file from the date of discovery. The one exception to the discovery Statue of Limitations is if a person should have reasonably discovered the image earlier.
New York City also has a private right of action for an Unlawful Disclosure of an Intimate Image lawsuit. Under New York City Administrative Code Section 10-180(d), a person can sue if he or she is a victim of the New York City crime of Unlawful Disclosure of an Intimate Image. To sue under the New York City law, criminal charges do not need to be brought against a person.
For a person to file an Unlawful Disclosure of an Intimate Image lawsuit in New York City, either a person either:
- Disclosed an Intimate Image, without the depicted individual’s consent, with the intent to cause economic, physical or substantial emotional harm to such depicted individual, where such depicted individual is or would be identifiable to another individual either from the intimate image or from the circumstances under which such image is disclosed; or
- Threatened to disclose an Intimate Image without consent, provided that a depicted individual shall be considered to be identifiable where a defendant states or implies that such person would be so identifiable
Like state law, a lawsuit under New York City’s Unlawful Disclosure of an Intimate Image can obtain punitive damages, compensatory damages and reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees.
New York School Cyberbullying and Harassment Policies
In 2010, New York passed the Dignity For All Students Act, which went into effect in July 2012. The law created definitions for bullying, which include cyberbullying. The law required schools to address harassment, bullying and cyberbullying in their codes of conduct. The Dignity For All Students Act defines harassment as the “creation of a hostile environment by conduct or verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being.”
Both bullying and cyberbullying, are considered to be forms of harassment. Cyberbullying is defined in The Dignity For All Students Act as “harassment or bullying that occurs through any form of electronic communication.” In addition, any conduct that unreasonably, substantially and materially interferes with another student’s education is harassment that is prohibited, regardless of the method of communication. Under the Dignity For All Students Act using any electronic device while at school or on school property, or using any electronic device while at a school function, is prohibited.
When the harassment or cyberbullying occurs off of school grounds, if the off-school behavior starts to negatively affect another student’s learning, then the harassment or cyberbullying may be covered under the Dignity For All Students Act when it “creates or would foreseeably create a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment, where it is foreseeable that the conduct, threats, intimidation, or abuse might reach school property.”
In New York, every school Code of Conduct was required to incorporate the mandates in the Dignity For All Students Act. The New York City Department of Education has an extensive Code of Conduct. New York City’s Code of Conduct, like that of your local school district.
Tracking Software for Parents
The first question that is always asked about monitoring or spyware software and apps is: is it legal? Yes, if 2 conditions are met. First, you, as a parent, own the device, such as an iPhone or Android device, the app is installed on. Second, your child is a minor. For the purposes of Teen Sexting in New York, a minor is defined as anybody who is less than 17 years old. Whether or not you disclose the monitoring or spyware software or apps is up to the parent.
Using tracking or spyware software for a different purpose, such as tracking a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or adult partner, is probably illegal. The issue of legality in part rests on whether or not the monitoring or spyware software or apps is used for a legitimate purpose. A parent has a legitimate purpose to track the electronic communications of a child who is less than 17 years old. Whereas, an adult does not have a legitimate purpose in tracking the electronic communications of a spouse or any other adult. To do would likely violate New York Stalking Laws.
One of the most popular tracking and spyware apps is bark. When installed on a device, the app monitors text messages, emails, social media activity and cloud storage for signs of harmful interactions and content. The app monitors audio, video, images and even text within images. If the app algorithm detects a potential risk, then it sends an alert to a parent. The app also manages what sites a user is allowed to visit and makes others off limits. Other popular tracking and spyware apps that have features similar to bark include Qustodio, Net Nanny and Kaspersky Safe Kids.
New York’s Teen Sexting Diversion Program
The punishments for Teen Sexting, which involve a permanent felony criminal record and possible lifetime registration as a Sex Offender under the Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA), are harsh. The increase of teenagers facing criminal charges for Teen Sexting gave urgency to creating a diversion program as an escape valve for teenagers charged in New York. In 2012, New York created a Teen Sexting Diversion program when it passed. the Cybercrime Youth Rescue Act.
New York created a Teen Sexting Diversion Program in 2012 when it enacted. Eligible teens who participate in Teen Sexting Diversion have the opportunity to have their charges dismissed and sealed, which is preferable to the possibility of a permanent felony record and possible prison. To be eligible for New York Teen Sexting Diversion the person charged must be less than 20 years old and the person who received the communication with Sexual Conduct cannot be more than 5 years apart in age from the person charged. The age differences in the Teen Sexting Diversion Program are:
- If the person charged is 16, the complaining witness must be at least 11
- If the person charged is 17, the complaining witness must be at least 12
- If the person charged is 18, the complaining witness must be at least 13
- If the person charged is 19, the complaining witness must be at least 14
If a person is eligible for Teen Sexting Diversion and placed in the program, he or she is required to participate in an educational program. If the program is successfully completed then the criminal charges are dismissed and sealed in 6 months.
Speak With a Teen Sexting Lawyer in NYC Today
If you or a loved one is a victim of a Teen Sexting-related crime in New York City, we’re here to help. An experienced Teen Sexting lawyer can help stop the spread of Sexual Content. In cases of Teen Sexting, time is of the essence; the sooner a parent of victim takes action, the better.
Contact The Law Firm of Andrew M. Stengel
Contact us via the live chat below, through our contact form here, or call us at (212) 634-9222. Initial consultations are free and confidential, and you will speak with Andrew M. Stengel directly.
Our offices are located at 11 Broadway, Suite 715, New York, NY 10004, and we handle cases throughout New York City, Nassau, Westchester and the surrounding counties.