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​German court rules ex-lovers should wipe out intimate photos after breakup

Published time: May 22, 2014 22:56
Screenshot from a website

Screenshot from a website

In what could be a landmark ruling, a court in Koblenz has forced a man to delete private erotic photos and videos of his former girlfriend, even though she consented to the photography and took some of the pictures herself.

After a breakup, an unnamed woman from Hesse in central Germany sued her photographer ex-boyfriend over the photos, which he had kept for himself without an intent to publish.

The judge ruled that the unnamed defendant has to delete the intimate images – in which the partner is not clothed, or is engaged in sexual acts – but is allowed to keep any pictures in which she is clothed.

The ruling represents a legal shift.

Traditionally, it has been difficult to withdraw consent to photography once it had been given, with subjects having to demonstrate a legitimate change in circumstances or a level of deception for photos to be withdrawn.

Even in countries where legislation banning ‘revenge porn’ – compromising photos being posted by exes – such as the US, where several states have adopted such laws, the judge usually penalizes those who decide to publish photos. By forcing the defendant to delete photos from their private collection that may not have even been intended for publication, the German legal system is creating a new standard.

Media lawyer Christian Solmecke told Bild newspaper that the ruling will currently only apply to the couple in the lawsuit, but may be taken up by a higher court, which may ratify it into being standard practice.

The boom of revenge pornography is closely tied to the creation of the internet, which allowed easy outlet for people to post explicit amateur photographs, meaning that there has been little legal experience in dealing with it.

So far, Israel has adopted some of the harshest penalties in the world, with posting of old intimate photos regarded as a sex crime that carries a tariff of up to five years.