Massachusetts Lawmakers Move to Ban Video Voyeurism

Gretchen Gallen
BOSTON – Gov. Mitt Romney is currently reviewing state legislation that would make it a crime for anyone to secretly videotape people in restrooms, locker rooms and showers and distribute those images over the Internet.

The bill also includes an "Anti-Camcorder" section backed by the Motion Picture Association of America that would ban the practice of videotaping movies in theaters for sale over the Internet or through underground piracy markets.

If signed by Romney, video voyeurs could face up to two years in jail or a $10,000 fine.

According to one of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Susan Fargo, the bill intends to protect people from being videotaped nude or semi-nude in places that are assumed to be private and then have those pictures show up on websites.

"We know of cases where landlords have put cameras in bathrooms and bedrooms and the courts have made the police give back the tapes," a spokesperson for Sen. Fargo stated. "There are literally thousands of websites that market nothing but images of women undressed."

With increasing numbers of alleged video voyeurism crimes nationwide, there is some speculation that if Romney signs the bill into law, many other states will be obliged to take similar action.

In March, police in West Covina, Calif., said that nearly 200 women who applied for jobs at a Hooters restaurant were secretly videotaped in a trailer while they undressed to put on Hooters uniforms. Police raided the trailer last month and seized a computer that held 180 digital videos of the women.

In Webster Parish, La., the owner of a clothing store was arrested for allegedly videotaping teenage girls in a changing room, and a Los Angeles police officer was arrested for allegedly videotaping a 13-year-old girl as she was changing her clothes for a modeling session.

In a similar international case, sophisticated pinhole surveillance cameras were recently discovered in raids on brothels in Hong Kong's red-light district. Brothel owners were using the cameras to secretly videotape customers having sex with prostitutes and were then selling those videotapes in the underground porn film market.

In May, a federal panel voted to approve the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act, which outlaws "upskirt" photos and other forms of voyeurism made possible by cellphone cameras and other miniaturized technology. The bill passed the Senate in September.

Last year, video voyeurism became a felony in New York with the signing of Stephanie’s Law. The New York law allows for punishment of up to seven years in jail for videotaping an unsuspecting person in a private setting.