Very rarely in law do we see a judge create a new category of claims–in legal terms it’s historic. But that is just what an Ontario judge has done. He awarded damages to a person whose privacy was violated. The case was about a young woman attending university who was pressured by her ex-boyfriend to make a sex video for him, who promised to keep the video private. Instead, he posted the video to a pornography website and distributed the video amongst his friends, some of whom were also friends with the young woman.
The young woman was devastated and suffered both physical and psychological symptoms. In fact, her symptoms were similar to what a victim of sexual assault suffers.
The judge ruled for the first time in Ontario that the boyfriend had violated the young lady’s privacy rights and ordered the boyfriend to pay damages to her. The judge awarded $100,000 in damages plus about $30,000 in legal fees and expenses—no small sum.
With so much cyber bullying and other shady online practices, a clear decision like this was needed. It sends a strong message that online issues will be taken seriously and damages awarded appropriately. Ignorance can’t be claimed any longer.
Before this new change, the law of defamation would apply to harmful information or images posted on the internet. If whatever harmful material posted was accurate, it was allowed. It seemed that people with malicious intent too often posted harmful images and “got away with it”.
Thanks to these new changes, accuracy isn’t as important as intent. Were these images originally intended for private use only? An intimate detail or photo meant for a partner or friend? Disclosing them publicly will now be met with damages. And not insignificant amounts either, as we’ve seen with this $100,000 award.
All I can say is that it’s about time!
Written by Antonio Azevedo