Lawyer offers women help

A Christchurch lawyer is offering his help to three young Blenheim women after a recording of their live sex show was shared on social media.

Barrister Steven Rollo said the women's privacy may have been breached after the recording was downloaded and shared on Facebook.

Whether or not the Blenheim women were initially willing participants was beside the point, he said.

"We all freely share a bit of ourselves with others everyday, such as partners and friends. There are always understandings as to what will then be shared further, implicit rules in a sense."

Whether the women's privacy had been breached would depend on what understanding there was when the video was made.

Publication of private images and information could shame and potentially destroy a person, he said. "All of a sudden that person is being objectified by someone who has effectively taken from them control of their own image and personal details."

Similar cases had been taken to court in the past, such as the publication of photos taken of a prostitute, Mr Rollo said.

The woman had consented to the photos being taken, but she never consented to further publication. The court held there was a breach of privacy.

The Blenheim women could have a good claim for breach of privacy, he said.

Wellington coordinator for the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective Calum Bennachie believed the women's privacy had been breached.

There was no suggestion the women were acting as prostitutes, but in lieu of a New Zealand pornography union, the Express went to the collective for comment.

Mr Bennachie said most webcam sex shows were pay-per-view. When the link to the video was downloaded and shared, the women lost out on money earned through royalties.

People using webcams to make money by performing sexual acts was not common in New Zealand, but those who did it usually used an overseas server to reach a bigger audience base.

Webcam performers usually signed an agreement with the server owner about the conditions of posting the video online. If that agreement was breached, the women could have a legal case.

Under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 the women would not be considered sex workers if they performed to a website client.

"If you're not touching someone, you don't meet the definition of a sex worker," he said. "There's no client in the room."

However, the collective would still support anyone who was involved in the webcam pornography industry, he said.

Meanwhile, a Marlborough lawyer said it was unlikely the women had a strong legal case if they hadn't established their performance was for private use only.

Community Law Marlborough manager Raewyn Tretheway said if there was no agreement, the women had little chance of taking legal action.

"If it's consenting adults, who know there is a camera in the bedroom, there's not a lot you can do," she said.

"If they haven't signed anything to say it can't be redistributed, I don't think they have a leg to stand on."

Ms Tretheway hadn't heard of a similar case in New Zealand, but she wasn't surprised.

"This sort of thing is becoming more common, but after it came to the fore [on Tuesday], hopefully it warns people not to trust anyone if they're filming stuff," she said.

It was a very complex issue that had yet to be fully explored in New Zealand, she said.

"A lot of people are still quite naive of the consequences of their actions concerning social media," she said.

A spokesman for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner said it came down to what the women had agreed to before they began performing for the webcam.

If they felt there had been an interference with their privacy, they could make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner.

"In legal terms, it is a bit tricky," he said. "Social media is the wild west."

The women might have been naive, he said. Anyone performing in front of a webcam should realise that it might be recorded.

The Marlborough Express