If March 8th is the International Day for Women’s Right, March 7th, 2016 was the day which pleaded in favor of women’s rights in the USA. The now famous Erin Andrews case in the USA concerns issues of privacy on the Internet, especially the videotaping, so-called “revenge porn”. Erin Andrews, 37, a famous sportscaster on Fox Sports, was illegally filmed through a peephole into her Marriott hotel room in Nashville, Tennessee in 2008. The sportscaster appears totally naked on the videotape. In an adjacent room, Michael D. Barrett, 46, recorded the video. It was released on the Internet in July 2009.
Two months after, the FBI arrested Michael D. Barrett on the legal basis of interstate stalking, which comes under federal law and allows the FBI to take legal actions.
The defendant pleaded guilty to the charges on December 2009. On March 15, 2010, Barrett was sentenced to 30 months in prison, three years of probation, $5,000 in fines, and $7,366 in restitution.(1) He was released on July 3, 2012.
Meanwhile, Erin Andrews worked with the US Senator Amy Klobuchar in order to pass a bill on a new federal anti-stalking law to further protect the privacy of American citizens. (2)
In 2011, Erin Andrews’s lawyers filed a motion against the Marriot Hotel and Michael D. Barrett for torts of negligence (a failure to act as a reasonable, careful person in similar circumstances) and invasion of privacy (an intentional tort that covers a variety of situations, including disclosure, intrusion, appropriation and false light) in connection with secret videotaping. She supports in her lawsuit that hotel employees informed Barrett of the dates she would be at the hotel and gave him a room next to hers. In October 2015, Andrews’ lawyers filed a complaint for $75 millions before the Davidson county circuit court of Nashville, Tennessee. Erin Andrews gave a tearful testimony arguing about the consequences the video had on her life and the emotional distress.
On March 7th, the jury granted $55 millions to Erin Andrews with over $28 million apportioned to Barrett, who was found 51% at fault, and over $26 million from Windsor Group, the Marriott’s owner and manager, who was found 49% at fault. (3)
Although the defendants can appeal the jury’s decision within 30 days, which is likely, this decision is well received in the fight for women’s rights and privacy. This case was in a grey area of the law, concerning the videotaping and releasing of someone’s most private life on the Internet. This is now commonly referred to “revenge porn,” regardless of whether or not it includes a sexual act with the one that released the video. In the Andrews case, the plaintiff was a celebrity and did not know the defendant. Indeed, “revenge porn” is the only word available to define this kind of action, as no legal word exists except interstate stalking which is not appropriate and used as a federal crime. The “revenge porn” is not a crime in many states of the US. There is no federal law about this area of the law in the United States, and this case is a strong decision towards better protection of women’s rights in the United States as they are the almost only target of these actions.
This decision could impact the presidential race as the Erin Andrews case alongside International Women’s Day will definitely brought more attention to gender inequality and women’s rights.
1 “Andrews’ stalker gets 2½ years in prison” », www.espn.go.com, March 15th, 2010
2. Edecio Martinez, “Erin Andrews and Sen. Amy Klobuchar Introduce Tougher Federal Anti-Stalking Bill”, www.cbsnews.com, July 28th, 2010
3. Adam Tamburin, Stacey Barchenger, “Erin Andrews awarded $55 million in civil case over nude video”, www.tennessean.com, March 7th, 2016