A hacker who so far has maintained his anonymity has claimed to have accessed nude photos of at least 100 celebrities through a concerted effort lasting several months. Jennifer Lawrence, one of the celebrity victims, has confirmed the authenticity of the photos. These actions are obviously criminal, and the FBI is investigating. However, there are also civil consequences. In fact, not surprisingly, some celebrity victims are already threatening legal action.
Although these actions likely did not occur in Nevada, if Nevada law were to apply, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and other victims of this cybercrime would be able to bring a civil suit against the hacker(s) (once identified) based on a number of Nevada torts (a tort is more or less the civil equivalent of a crime).
Among the applicable Nevada torts are conversion (civil equivalent of theft), civil conspiracy (there is evidence that there is more than one hacker), concert of action (similar to conspiracy but with a lighter burden), appropriation (invasion of privacy), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (extreme and outrageous conduct that causes extreme emotional distress).
Additionally, NRS 205.4765 makes it a crime for a person to knowingly, willfully and without authorization obtain access to, take, use, retain possession of, copy, or disclose data from a computer. Although celebrities do not have the power to enforce the crimes (the most they can do is encourage and assist law enforcement officers and government prosecutors), NRS 205.511 grants a private right of action to victims of these crimes (i.e. allows victims to bring private civil suits). It also allows a prevailing victim to recover punitive damages and attorney’s fees and costs in addition to actual damages. Thus, the combination of NRS 205.4765 and NRS 205.511 may form the most potent tort available to such victims if Nevada law were to apply.
There is some evidence that the hacker(s) have tried to sell the photographs, which, if true, could open the door to a number of other Nevada crimes and torts, including racketeering. Racketeering, if proven, allows for triple the amount of damages proven in a civil case.
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Zachariah B. Parry is an attorney and founding partner at the law firm Pickard Parry Pfau and is an adjunct professor who teaches torts, contracts, and Nevada practice and procedure for UNLV’s paralegal program. He can be reached at 702-910-4300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.