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Nebraska bill would ban 'upskirt' photos

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A state senator is trying to make “upskirt” photos illegal.

Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill introduced a bill that would make the act of taking pictures of people’s private areas illegal in public spaces. The bill’s hearing was Feb. 20.

Taking the pictures without consent would result in a year in jail or a $1,000 fine with increased penalties for further offenses. Distributing the pictures would be punishable by 50 years in jail.

In addition, if the individual who takes the picture is older than 19 years old and the individual who has his or her picture taken is under 18 years old, the photographer would be required to register on the National Sex Offender Registry.

“Upskirt” photos are currently legal in public places because of a loophole: Because there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place, any type of photography is legal.

“Basically you can photograph anything in public, and what this change does is address the advances in technology that are not covered in current law,” said John Bender, a professor of journalism who teaches media law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

McGill said it’s fascinating that public upskirt photos aren’t already illegal.

“That is the biggest comment that I hear about it,” McGill said. “Any of our privacy laws deal with the victim being in a place where they expect privacy … You add the Internet and text messaging and the ability to send those pictures all around the world, it makes it a much more serious crime.”

McGill is not alone in attempting to put an end to this type of photography. U.S. Congress passed the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004, aiming to put a stop to upskirt photos. But the bill only applies to places where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, leaving many victims of upskirting out in the cold in legal battles.

“It’s more preventative for Lincoln,” McGill said. “I have not had anyone come forward to me yet about this happening to them, but it does beg a lot of other questions, and we’re trying to work out the language because there are so many different technology-related problems.”

The legislature already has seen an increase in the amount of legislation regarding technology, especially the area of stalking, including updates in technology and updated laws, McGill said.

While members of the media may have concerns that this legislation and legislations similar to this could have a negative impact on their ability to film news subjects, the law is written in such a way as to nullify this concern.

“I am willing to work with the media, because it’s the media’s job to report on the things that are happening in society,” McGill said. “You need to make sure that the media can tell that story, it’s in the best public interest. It’s certainly not my intention to prevent the media from being able to show true evidence of a problem.”

Bender said the law shouldn’t impede photojournalists’ ability to film and photograph in public.

“There has to be a level of guilty knowledge,” Bender said. “So if a photographer accidentally took an inappropriate picture, this law would not be in effect.”

news@dailynebraskan.com

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