June 10, 2011 / 9:06 PM / in 6 years

New Tennessee law bars transmitting "harassing" images

2 Min Read

<p>U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) reacts as he speaks to the media in New York in this June 6, 2011 file photo.Brendan McDermid/Files</p>

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Tennessee has passed a law that makes it a crime to transmit a picture that causes intended emotional distress without legitimate purpose.

As the nation continues to follow the tale of New York congressman Anthony Weiner, who tweeted lewd pictures of himself, Tennessee has now criminalized the kinds of material that one can put up on web sites. The state, which has been in the news of late for other eyebrow-raising new laws like the one that makes it a crime to share passwords on entertainment subscription web sites, is cracking down on another hot-button online issue -- harassment.

Tennessee's new law makes it a criminal offense for anyone who "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."

A requirement for prosecution is "malicious intent to frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" and applies to those acting "without legitimate purpose" -- so strictly speaking, a Hollywood horror film shown online probably doesn't apply.

But some say the law is vulnerable to subjective interpretation and enforcement, such as a possible crackdown on controversial entertainment content.

Some legal scholars believe the new statute won't pass a First Amendment review by courts.

"Pretty clearly unconstitutional, it seems to me," writes Eugene Volokh on his blog.

Editing by Chris Michaud

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