Copyrighting Nudes and the Case of Hunter Moore - Dirty Week


By Anna Swann-Pye

Image courtesy of Mike Seyfang.

In the age of sexting, there are thousands and thousands of nude photographs floating around out there, just waiting to be discovered. But how do we prevent these pics from being posted on the web against our will? Some would say, just don’t take them. But if you are a cyber-sex-positivist who considers sexting something that you enjoy, is there a way to keep those NSFW texts private?

In 2010, famed internet bully Hunter Moore launched the website This forum, which labelled itself a “revenge porn site,” allowed angry exes (predominantly ex-boyfriends) to post nude pictures of their former lovers anonymously, or sometimes not so anonymously. Naturally, women were outraged. Two in particular, who sat with Hunter on Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show, expressed hurt, embarrassment, and dismay as they tried to reason with Moore.

“If we’re choosing to send them to somebody that we trust,” one argued, “that doesn’t mean that we expect them to show up on the internet. And you’re helping someone who’s probably spiteful, exploit someone without their permission.”

It’s not clear, though, how much permission really matters. There are copyright laws regarding photographs, but they’re a little odd. In the case of photography, it is always the person taking the photo who is allowed to claim copyright, unless otherwise contractually specified. So, if you took a picture of yourself in the bathroom mirror and sent it along only for it to be later posted against your will, you could claim copyright infringement. But if your boyfriend was the photographer, and later sent his pictures along to Hunter Moore or some other malicious revenge porn distributer, there isn’t much you can do.

And even if the pictures were indeed taken by you, the process of getting them taken down is complicated. It involves hiring an attorney to file takedown notices with the Internet Service Providers, which in all likelihood, your picture has been seen by most of your extended family.

In the case of Hunter Moore’s, the targeted women eventually did catch a break when activist James McGibney bought the domain name and usurped it into his network of anti-bullying websites centralized by Breakthru Radio talked to James about the process of shutting down

“We were in discussion with him for weeks,” McGibney told us, “The whole idea was, we were going to shut the website down and he would agree to be anti-bullying. He claimed that he would turn over a new leaf.”

Of course, this is not what happened. Moore continued to bully — even threatening McGibney himself. But when asked if it would’ve been possible to charge Moore with copyright infringement as a way of taking him down, McGibney said that, because the posts were mostly anonymous, it would’ve been difficult. What got Moore in the most trouble was the pictures of underage girls featured on the site. There is currently a civil suit against Hunter Moore for his distribution of child pornography on the web, McGibney tells us.

This isn’t to say that Moore isn’t continuing facing some serious backlash. “The lesson is,” McGibney tells us, “if you’re going to open up a revenge porn website with naked girls, a nation will come after you.” But for those girls, it seems that there is no easy answer. The lesson may be that, if you do decide to send naked pictures to your boyfriend or girlfriend, make sure that he or she is someone that you trust. Otherwise, keep them to yourself.

For more, check out Hunter Moore’s appearance on BTR’s current events podcast, Third Eye Weekly, from earlier this year.