In a high profile case before the High Court, an American YouTube vlogger has obtained substantial damages against her British ex-boyfriend for posting pornographic videos of her online without her knowledge or consent.
Chrissy Chambers, a successful American blogger and content creator on YouTube, had a nine month long-distance relationship with a British man (‘the defendant’) in 2008 and 2009.
On 3 September 2009, the defendant, without Ms Chambers’ knowledge or consent, recorded videos of them engaging in sexual activity. Two years later, the defendant posted six pornographic videos of Ms Chambers on a free porn website without Ms Chambers’ knowledge or consent. Such acts are often referred to as ‘revenge porn’.
In April 2015, ‘revenge porn’ became a criminal offence in England and Wales under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. This prohibits the act of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress.
Some of these videos included Ms Chambers’ full name and her age at the time, which was 18. The inclusion of her personal details caused the videos to appear when her largely female, teenage fan-base searched for her content on the internet. Ms Chambers discovered the existence of the videos in 2013 when fans complained about them and told her that they no longer wished to view her YouTube content.
Ms Chambers wrote to the porn website to request that the videos be taken down, but she was unable to compel their removal because the defendant owned the copyright. The videos were subsequently shared on more than 30 pornographic websites.
High Court proceedings
In March 2016, Ms Chambers issued proceedings against the defendant in the High Court for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and harassment. Ms Chambers sought damages for the severe emotional and psychological distress which she suffered due to the publication of the videos and for the serious damage which the videos caused to the reputation of her online brand.
Ms Chambers secured a settlement with the defendant which included the following terms:
- He admitted that his actions amounted to a breach of confidence, a misuse of her private information and a breach of her Article 8 rights
- He agreed to pay her substantial damages and her legal costs
- He agreed to assign the copyright in the videos to her so that she could ask the websites hosting the videos to take them down
‘Revenge porn’ and future litigation
Unlike most ‘revenge porn’ cases, Ms Chambers brought the proceedings in her own name and conducted a crowd-funding campaign which not only raised funds for the litigation but also raised public awareness of such acts.
After agreeing a settlement with the defendant, Ms Chambers made a statement in open court describing the sequence of events leading up to the litigation, the emotional distress she suffered and the settlement terms.
Ms Chambers’ case highlights the financial remedies available in civil proceedings to victims of ‘revenge porn’ and may encourage further victims to litigate their cases in public.