Disseminating Nude Pictures Online Isnot Libel, Court Rules

Ruling comes in case of lawyer who posted topless images of former lover.

Posting naked photographs on a file-sharing website by email will not be considered libel, a magistrate ruled last week.

The magistrate distinguished between a first uploading of the photograph online, which could be libellous, and moving it by email after it had been published on the Internet by someone else.

The verdict was given in the case of a lawyer who was photographed by her former partner in a jacuzzi with a bare upper torso, while the two were on a trip in the north. The couple separated, and the lawyer married someone else.

One day the lawyer, whose name was not released for publication, was told by her father he had heard that photos of her naked were being distributed among their acquaintances.

The plaintiff asked the Tel Aviv District Court to appoint someone to scan computers of acquaintances and of her former partners for photographs of her. The court-appointed official found pictures of her on two compact discs in the former partner's possession, but could not find them in his personal computer. Nor could he find evidence that the former partner had emailed them or uploaded them to the file-sharing website.

The plaintiff sued four people for spreading her photograph on the Internet. She said that by sending the photographs among themselves the respondents committed libel and broke the privacy protection law.

The respondents argued that it was most likely the plaintiff had uploaded her photographs to the Internet herself, and by so doing had consented to the alleged infringement on her privacy and reputation.

Netanya Magistrate Smadar Abramovitch-Kollande criticized the plaintiff for refusing to testify or submit a deposition to the court.

Abramovitch-Kollende wrote in her verdict that she did not receive a satisfactory explanation as to why the plaintiff did not sue her former partner as well.

The magistrate wrote that posting the photograph indisputably constituted libel, but the case was about a third party who did not initiate the uploading of the photographs but rather happened on them online and emailed them to the other respondents.

"The material was already on the Internet and the respondents expanded the distribution a little among themselves by sending it to each other," she wrote.

Finding the respondents guilty of libel "could infringe on the many advantages of the Internet and the freedom characterizing it," the magistrate wrote.