Maryland Lawmaker Seeks to Ban True Voyeur Content

Matt O'Conner
BALTIMORE — Mentioning sites such as Upskirt.com and ChurchUpskirts.com by name, Delegate Neil F. Quinter, D-Howard, says he is determined to pass a law making it illegal to take voyeuristic photos or videotape or to post voyeur content on the Internet.

Quinter held a news conference this week to announce that he is introducing a bill that would ban upskirts and downblouses, and he is doing it early enough in the 90-day legislative session to ensure that both the Maryland House and Senate have plenty of time to weigh and vote on its merits.

A bill that would have outlawed upskirting died in the state Senate last year because the session ended before it came to a vote. Another law that would have made it possible to prosecute webmasters who post voyeur content also never came to a vote because time ran out.

Quinter said he became passionate about the issue while he was doing research and typed the word "upskirt" into Google.

"I was not prepared for what I got, which was all these porn sites," he said.

Even if the law does pass, it would only apply to residents of Maryland.

Quinter was accompanied at the press conference by Shelley Lebel, a woman who testified at hearings on the bills that died in the last legislative session that she had been traumatized by when pictures of her cleavage were posted online. She said she will be back to testify again, if necessary.

“If Britney Spears can get her baby pictures taken off the web, then why can't Maryland women get unsolicited pictures of themselves taken off the web?” she asked.

Lebel said she was shocked and frustrated to find out downblousing is not illegal and she could not prosecute the man who took her picture. Voyeurs in the digital age are frustrating prosecutors across the U.S. because snapping pictures up skirts and down blouses is not against the law in most states.

Although 38 states have privacy laws concerning the use of cameras, only 19 specifically punish video voyeurism, and half of those do so only for “private” areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Public areas, such as malls, usually do not fall into this category.

Federal law also does prohibit taking photos of a person without his or her consent in private places such as bathrooms and dressing rooms but offers no protection against such photographs in public places. Also, there are currently no specific laws against posting upskirt and downblouse photos on the Internet.

Prosecutors sometimes can go after offenders by charging them with other crimes, such as disorderly conduct.

First Amendment attorney Lawrence Walters warned that Maryland lawmakers should be careful not to go too far in any attempts to regulate the Internet, adding that, in his opinion, the majority of online voyeur content is staged.