‘Video voyeurism’ bill introduced in Louisiana Legislature

Wednesday, February 17, 1999

A measure in the Louisiana House seeks to create a new crime classification — that of “video voyeurism” — which it defines as the “use of any camera” or other “image recording device” to invade a person's “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

The measure would apply to anyone “secretly observing, viewing, photographing, filming, or video taping a person present in a residence, place of business, school or other structure, or any room or particular location within that structure, where that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and has not consented to the observation.”

A first offense could draw a fine of up to $1,000 or a prison term of six months, or both.

Introduced by House members Willie Hunter and Glenn Ansardi, the measure will not be debated until the legislative session opens in March.

The proposed legislation does allow for five exceptions, including “video recording or monitoring conducted pursuant to a court order from a court of competent jurisdiction” and various forms of “security monitoring.”

However, the measure does not call for an exemption for legitimate newsgathering activity, a prospect that Jane Kirtley, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, finds troubling.

“This measure in no way exempts legitimate newsgathering because it is solely premised on the subject's reasonable expectation of privacy,” Kirtley said.

“This law will cover images (apparent to) the naked eye and would criminalize the activity of a standard point-and-shoot camera,” she added.

“There should be an exemption for newsgathering on clear matters of public importance at the very least,” Kirtley said.

Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union, focuses more on the privacy issue than on potential First Amendment ramifications from the measure.

“This measure is not inclusive enough,” he said. “It is too narrowly drawn. We will work with the legislators to ensure that a greater degree of privacy is protected.”

“This measure will not infringe on press freedoms,” Cook said.

However, Kirtley said the bill “absolutely would abridge press freedoms.”