It seems that the state of Tennessee is in the news yet again. After reporting on a bill that makes sharing your Netflix login credentials illegal, it now appears the state is going against offensive images and videos online. A new amendment that goes into effect on July 1st makes it a crime to post an image or video clip that could “frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress” to an individual.
This vague wording could easily be applied to nearly any photo or video in existence. Under the new regulation, posting the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed would now be a crime in the state of Tennessee, even if only posted on your personal Facebook page or other similar location. Worse than that, movies such as Saving Private Ryan, or Blair Witch Project could also be considered illegal to distribute electronically within Tennessee due to “frightening” and “disturbing” images. The law does take the time to state that the ISP will not be held liable for any violations.
The site Volokh.com took the time to merge the new amendment into the original law, and it reads as follows .
(a) A person commits an offense who intentionally:
(4) Communicates with another person or transmits or displays an image in a manner in which there is a reasonable expectation that the image will be viewed by the victim by [by telephone, in writing or by electronic communication] without legitimate purpose:
(A) (i) With the malicious intent to frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress; or
(ii) In a manner the defendant knows, or reasonably should know, would frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities; and
(B) As the result of the communication, the person is frightened, intimidated or emotionally distressed.
While it remains to be seen whether this law will be able to stand up in courts, it’s a bit concerning that in the face of large deficits, rampant unemployment, and other similar issues, our lawmakers are focusing on password sharing and scary images.