The UK is currently working on a big Crime and Punishment Bill that everyone hates (technically it's the "Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill" no Oxford comma wtf?) but it includes a provision that some of the more stick-up-the-ass photo commentators love. This provision modifies the Sexual Offences [sic] Act of 2003 which currently has a section on up-skirt photography, by adding some equivalent provisions concerning the photography of breast-having people in the act of breast-feeding.
It's a bit of a swamp to dig through, because the legal documents in play are all "edit the previous legal
document to include a script for editing yet another document" and the result has several pathways through
it that describe an offence [sic].
Now, I don't much care about this law. It's arguably just an attempt to codify current social norms,
which is good, I guess? It's an extension of the anti-up-skirting law, which has hardly ever
actually been invoked. The new law is even thinner and less likely to be invoked. Most likely the UK will
see one or two cases a year where someone freaks out about a dude with a camera, and almost
all of those will
get tossed because it will turn out to be insanely hard to meet the standards laid out in the law. My
judgement is that this is a sop intended to marginally boost support for a wildly unpopular omnibus bill.
But what the hell do I know? I Am Not A Lawyer. Spelling the word "law" taxes me.
Still, there is an element I find interesting.
If I read this correctly, the following scenario is an offence [sic]:
Taking, without consent, a photograph of a breast-feeding person in public, which photograph
does not reveal any bits and pieces of interest (no boobs, no nipples visible), specifically
in order to masturbate wildly to said photograph later.
While is is certainly a social norm to frown upon this sort of thing, I think it opens genuinely new
Most law, as far as I know, which restricts things photographic is built around either some normal
expectation of privacy (that is, you're arguably not supposed to be looking there at all even without a camera) or around something
to do with publishing (commercial or quasi-commercial uses of people's likenesses) or some combination (e.g. you're allowed to look there, but it's iffy, so you can't sell the photos.)
This is the first law I am aware of in which, if you merely remove the camera, the action is completely
legal. You may look at a breast-feeding person, especially if you're not peeping at their body parts
which would normally be covered (boobs, nipples) and if you want to masturbate wildly to that memory
later, well, have at it I guess. It's not illegal to masturbate, in a lot of places.
This law takes an unambiguously legal situation and renders it illegal purely by
the introduction of a camera to substitute for memory. You could, I guess, spin out some goofy
hypotheticals "what if I have a retinal implant or some other device that I used for normal vision?" I
think the law might actually make it illegal for someone with a retinal implant to look at a breast-feeding person if their intent is to get turned on. This would be kind of hilarious, but it's a sort
of dumb scenario.
Am I arguing against the law? Not really, as I say, it merely codifies what already exists socially.
Now instead of just yelling at the guy you're pretty sure is a creep, you can call a cop. The only
difference is that — maybe — the cop will do something ineffectual.
Do I think it's the nose of the camel inside the tent? Well. Certainly the people who applaud this
law tend toward theories of photography that kind of want to make it all illegal. The theory that
switching from eyes to camera Causes Enormous Harm is very popular. It's not really a secret
that a lot of photo commentators ultimately want to simply ban photography entirely if they can't figure
out a way to prevent everyone except their friends from doing it. Authoritarian governments do
love to authoritarian, and if they can find some dipshits to carry their water, they might double down!
This is, for instance, a legal theory that cops absolutely love. Sure, you can watch cops with
your eyes all you want, but they would like nothing better than to propose that as soon as you
introduce a camera, the formerly legal scenario becomes an illegal scenario. Cops are more or less constantly pushing for this one. In fact a lot of cops try to enforce this non-law all the time.
But do I really think that this law is, or will become, the beachhead from which a vast expansion
will arise? Not really. I think this is a dumb sop to try to sell a rotten omnibus law, and that is the
end of it.
The cops are going to get their version independently, because people keep electing jackasses.