WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

About Abuse

Abuse Using Technology

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December 20, 2017

What can I accomplish through civil court?

One way to address the misuse of technology can be through the civil court system.  To file a lawsuit in civil court, you can use an attorney or file on your own.  You (the victim) can sue for money damages for things like lost wages, loss of your job, emotional pain and suffering, damage to your reputation, and even punitive damages (to punish the defendant).  If your damages are below a certain amount, you may be able to file on your own in small claims court.  In some states, if you were the victim of the crime of disclosure of intimate images, the law may allow you to sue the person who discloses or uses the image for damages that increase each day the abuser is in violation of the law.  You can learn more about the option of suing an abuser in civil court by reading our Suing an Abuser for Money page and selecting your state from the drop-down menu.  You can also ask the court to issue an order (often called an injunction or a restraining order) in which the judge orders the defendant to stop doing certain things (like sending images of you to others) or to force him/her to do certain actions (such as destroying or turning over images).  Restraining orders may be a legal remedy for victims experiencing various types of abuse involving technology (and not only for nonconsensual image sharing cases) depending on your state’s legal definition of domestic violence.

There also may be other important civil legal options to consider in technology-related abuse cases, especially those that deal with the sharing of images of you without your consent.  One possible option, for example, deals with turning over the copyright of images to you.  Generally, copyright law may protect certain photos or videos taken as an “original work,” and the person who takes a photograph or video is generally the copyright “owner.”  The owner of the copyright can  decide if, how, and when those images are distributed, published online, etc.  However, in a civil lawsuit, it may be possible for you to request – and for a judge to order – that the defendant sign over any copyright ownership of the images to you (the victim).  Therefore, if you are the copyright owner, you would have the legal power to decide where the pictures are published and you may be able to demand that the pictures be removed from the Internet or other publications.  For advice on whether or not you may have a valid legal claim to get the copyright of any images taken of you, please consult with a lawyer who is knowledgeable about copyright law and technology misuse.  See our National Organizations - Posting Nude/Sexual Images Without Consent/”Revenge Porn” section for legal referrals.