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Publication and Distribution of Intimate and Pornographic Images:
German Lawyer Advice

The publication or distribution of intimate images and videos is no longer a rarity. Often an ex-partner publishes and distributes intimate privately sent images which were created in the relationship. Younger generations, in particular, are dealing with this topic more and more openly and, often, they are not aware of the consequences of distributing or publishing such a photo or video.

Have you found an intimate picture or video of yourself on the internet, or do you know that someone is distributing such intimate images or videos elsewhere? Our German media lawyers are happy to help you. In the following article, we will explain the current legal situation in Germany and the possible civil and criminal claims you can assert, especially against the publisher of the material.

Our team of lawyers at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte advises and represents private individuals and companies in all questions and issues of German media law.

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Lawyer for Press & Media Law: Dr. Matthias Wurm

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The unauthorised distribution of intimate images and other material can be damaging.

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General Legal Situation in Germany – the Right to One’s Own Image

The publication of an image is only legally permitted if certain regulations are observed. One of these regulations is the right to one’s own image, which is a manifestation of the right of personality (§ 2 (1) in conjunction with § 1 (1) German Constitution) and is standardised under §§ 22 ff. Copyright Act (KunstUrhG/KUG). These laws protect the unwanted publication of images and video recordings. Therefore, a person has the right to decide on the publication and distribution of a picture in which they can be seen. It should be noted, however, that § 23 KUG outlines some exceptions to this rule.

§ 22 KUG protects against the dissemination of “likenesses”. For this purpose, the person in the picture, whose consent to publication or distribution has not been given, must be recognisable. This is already the case if they would be recognised by a person merely known to them. It is therefore not necessary that the person’s face be visible in the picture. Rather, it is sufficient if the person is recognisable by their posture, an external feature or the like.

The publication of an intimate or pornographic photograph or other material must be examined more strictly from a legal point of view. This is because the identifying features described above are not required here. In principle, higher requirements are to be placed on the permissible distribution of such a likeness.


Claims Against the Perpetrator and the Platform Operator

If you have reason to fear the unauthorised publication and/or distribution of intimate images or other initimate or pornographic materials, we will outline which legal options exist in Germany for such cases. Contact our office directly if you require specialised legal assistance.

Civil Law Claims

Firstly, we would like to explain to you the possibilities for claims under civil law. These can be directed against the perpetrator or against the operator of the platform on which the picture or video is published.

If you know the identity of the perpetrator, there is the possibility of a claim for injunctive relief or removal according to §§ 1004 para. 1 p. 2 BGB, 823 para. 2 BGB in conjunction with §§ 22 , 23 KUG. The violation of the right of personality enables the victim to take action in this way against the disseminator of the image. This is to prevent either the publication of the recording or its further distribution. However, it is not sufficient to remove the image or video if it has already been published. Since there could be a risk of repeated dissemination, it is also possible for you (as the victim) to demand a punishable injunction from the disseminator or distributor of the recordings. This has the consequence that the perpetrator would have to pay a fine to the injured person (you) in case of a renewed publication.

Furthermore, the said claim can be directed against the operator of the platform on which the recording was published. The claim can be enforced by a warning or by an application for an interim injunction (§§ 936, 925 ZPO).

The aggrieved party may also assert a claim for damages (§ 823 para. 2 BGB in conjunction with §§ 22, 23 KUG) on the basis of damages incurred by them (e.g. extrajudicial lawyer’s fees). If there is actually a claim for damages, the aggrieved person can also claim compensation for pain and suffering in the event of a particularly serious violation of the right of personality.

In addition, there is a claim for deletion. If you have sent an intimate image or video to your partner in a relationship or they have made one of you and you are now separated, you can demand the deletion of the intimate material. This is possible if you consented to the recording at the time it was made, but only for the period of the intimate relationship. Whether the ex-partner now possesses or publishes the recording is irrelevant with regard to the claim for deletion, because deletion can be demanded even in the case of mere possession.

Criminal Law Claims

Criminal claims can also be made. By filing a criminal complaint with the police or the public prosecutor’s office, action can be taken against the publication or distribution of intimate images and other material. § 33 KUG stipulates that anyone who publishes or disseminates a likeness in contravention of §§ 22, 23 KUG is liable to a custodial sentence of up to one year or a monetary penalty.

It is also possible to be punished under § 201a German Criminal Code. The aforementioned norm from the Art Copyright Act (KUG) only criminalises the dissemination and publication of an intimate image. § 201a StGB is intended to protect against the violation of the most personal sphere of life and personal rights through image recordings. Accordingly, the norm already punishes the making of an intimate image recording without consent.

In addition, §§ 184b and § 184c German Criminal Code must be considered. According to these provisions, the distribution, acquisition and possession of child and youth pornography is punishable. One speaks of pornography if what is depicted primarily serves the sexual arousal of the viewer. The punishability of a person depends on the age of the child or young person depicted in an intimate manner. Also, according to § 184 German Criminal Code, a person who distributes pornographic content is liable to prosecution. The age of the recipient is irrelevant here. If a person receives a pornographic image without having given their prior consent, this constitutes a criminal offence.

You have been sent an inappropriate picture or you fear the distribution of an intimate image in which you can be seen? We can help you. Feel free to contact us directly via our online form or give us a call.


Support with Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte

Do you have any further questions about media law? Our lawyers will be happy to assist you. Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte is a multidisciplinary, full-service law firm. With offices in Cologne, Aachen and Düsseldorf and conference rooms in Hamburg, Berlin, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Munich, we are active throughout Germany. Our lawyers advise you in German, English and many other languages. Call us, send us an e-mail or use our online form – we will be happy to give you an overview of your options as part of an initial assessment.

Contact a German Media Lawyer concerning the Publication and Distribution of Intimate Images

Please use the contact form to inform us about your concerns concerning the publication and distribution of intimate images. After receiving your request, we will make a short preliminary assessment based on the information provided and give you a cost estimation. You are then free to decide whether you want to instruct our media lawyers.

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