As sexting and revenge porn continue to raise questions about legal ownership and privacy rights, Germany’s high court has weighed in with a ruling that allows people to demand that their ex-lovers delete naked pictures of them.
The Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), upheld an earlier ruling from a regional court in Koblenz, Germany, that said a man did not have the right to keep intimate photos of his ex-lover just because she had consented to taking them in the first place.
German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) reports the details of the ruling published Dec. 21: The defendant, a professional photographer, had taken nude photos of the woman during and after sexual intercourse. The woman had also sent him photos of herself over the course of their relationship.
The BGH ruled that the man did not have the right to keep the nude photos after their breakup, saying, “The consent of the plaintiff to create the photos in question does not rule out withdrawing that consent in the future.”
The ruling applies to photos even while just in the hands of an ex-lover and not necessarily in the public domain. In the case that came up through the Koblenz court, the photographer had to delete any photos that showed his ex naked, nearly naked, in her underwear, or before, during, or after intercourse. (He would, however, be able to keep photos of her clothed in everyday situations, which wouldn’t, the court decided, damage her reputation.)
Germany’s move comes as more governments are paying attention to revenge porn, in which a person disseminates sexually explicit photos or videos of another person without consent. England and Wales banned revenge porn earlier this year under a new law that could send perpetrators to prison for up to two years. Israel also voted to ban the act and prosecute those suspected of revenge porn as sexual offenders.
In a US study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013, adult cell phone owners of all age groups said they sent and received more “sexts”—sexually suggestive photos or videos—than they had during the previous year.