Law Professors Contribute To Expansion of Revenge Porn Laws in Canada feature image

Law Professors Contribute To Expansion of Revenge Porn Laws in Canada

Two Canadian law professors, including one from the University of Calgary, have recently completed work on a project that seeks to strengthen Canadian laws on the non-consensual disclosure of intimate images, more commonly known as “revenge porn.” While revenge porn has been a reality for much longer than social media has been in existence, the ability for images and videos to quickly spread has made it more important than ever for legislatures to enact laws to prevent it.

Professors seek to expand existing laws

University of Calgary professor Emily Laidlaw worked with the University of New Brunswick’s Hilary Young on a project examining revenge porn in Canada. The result was the creation of the Uniform Non-consensual Disclosure of Intimate Images Act (2021) by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada (ULCC). The ULCC works to provide comprehensive acts that can be adopted by provincial governments where there is a desire for provinces to have uniformity in dealing with complex issues. Provinces can adopt ULCC acts in whole or supplement existing laws with certain aspects of ULCC acts.

According to a press release, Young and Laidlaw developed two distinct torts that can arise out of the distribution of revenge porn. The first is an action for damages, where the victim of the distribution of sexual images can sue the person responsible for spreading them. The second tort seeks to address limiting the distribution of such images.

Professor Young stated that one of the priorities of the project was to give victims a quicker path to resolution, particularly with stopping the spread of images or videos, stating,

“Existing remedies were largely useless. If you are the victim of revenge porn, filing a statement of claim and getting your trial date in two years, and then getting a money remedy is not that helpful. You want the images taken down. Injunctions (such as one to take down images) are considered exceptional remedies, particularly if there hasn’t already been a trial on the merits. There are a lot of barriers to getting injunctive relief. The whole point of this project was to make it a lot easier to get images taken down.”

How does the act compare with existing law in Alberta?

In 2017 the government of Alberta passed the Protecting Victims of Non-consensual Distribution of Intimate Images Act. While Alberta’s laws provide a remedy for victims of revenge porn to claim damages against someone who distributes images or video, it falls short of taking steps to prevent the distribution. Alberta’s remedies include,

  1. award damages to the plaintiff, including general, special, aggravated and punitive damages,
  2. order the defendant to account to the plaintiff for any profits that have accrued to the defendant as a result of the distribution of the intimate image without consent,
  3. issue an injunction on such terms and with such conditions that the court determines appropriate in the circumstances, and
  4. make any other order that the court considered just and reasonable in the circumstances.

While the ability for courts to make an injunction relating to revenge porn, Professor Laidlaw says that ULCC act expands on this aspect of relief, stating it,

“enables two-tracks for a civil claim: a speedy takedown procedure, and a traditional cause of action with damages. We also broadened the definition of intimate images to address evolving forms of abuse: threats to distribute such images, deep fakes and images where individuals are not identifiable, such as upskirting images.”

It remains to be seen if and how Alberta and other provinces will adopt the ULCC’s act, but we will be certain to cover developments here in our blog.

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