Can you stop home sex videos from getting distributed?

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Paris Hilton made headlines when a steamy sex video of her and former boyfriend Rick Salomon made the rounds of the digital community. Can the subjects of these scandalous home videos stop their release? The answer is the same as that to any legal question - it depends.

Reality TV lovers have nothing on web surfers. Anyone who has ever surfed the net knows the web is host to all kinds of voyeuristic entertainment. Those ads for Viagra and bored housewives have hit all of our inboxes.

And just ask Paris Hilton. She made headlines when a steamy sex video of her and former boyfriend Rick Salomon made the rounds of the digital community. Can the subjects of these scandalous home videos stop their release? The answer is the same as that to any legal question - it depends.

Invasion of Privacy and Emotional Distress

Hilton sued one of the tape's distributors, Kahatani Ltd., for $30 million. She claimed violation of privacy and intentional emotional distress. Hilton and her former flame also had a legal skirmish. A Los Angeles court dismissed the case against Kahatani. And Hilton and Salomon ended their legal wrangling. The decision? A portion of the tape's proceeds would go to charity.

To successfully prove an invasion of privacy case, Hilton would have to show she was entitled to privacy. In addition, she'd need to prove the tape's release was unreasonable. Hilton's "celebutante" status would make such a case harder to win. Also, she initially denied the tape's existence. Her celebrity status, the nature of the tape's contents, and untruthfulness arguably made the video newsworthy. Therefore, First Amendment law would bar Hilton from winning an invasion of privacy argument.

Copyright Infringement

There's a ton of legal frenzy surrounding content piracy these days. So an intellectual property argument is likely to get you farther in court.

In the Hilton sex tape case, Salomon claimed copyright of the video. He sued distributor Marvad Corp. for infringement. Marvad moved to dismiss the suit. They argued Salomon's copyright registration was invalid because he failed to name Hilton as a co-author. Apparently, Hilton helped direct the titillating romp. At one point, she even asked Salomon to get out of the way so as not to block the shot.

If Hilton had claimed copyright ownership in the tape, she may have had a better shot at blocking its distribution. After all, copyright law gives the copyright holder certain rights. By claiming authorship of the video, Hilton may have been able to slow or halt the tape's distribution.

But if you're really hoping friends, family, and the world won't witness your performances behind closed doors, the best remedy is not a legal one. Simply leave off the video camera and save the sex scandal!