Tennessee Lawmakers Again Pass a Law Impacting Hollywood

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Tennessee has just passed a law that makes it a crime to transmit a picture that causes intended emotional distress without legitimate purpose.

As the nation continues to follow the tale of New York congressman Anthony Weiner, who tweeted lewd pictures of himself, Tennessee has now criminalized the kinds of material that one can put up on websites. The state, which has been in the news of late for other eyebrow-raising new laws like the one that makes it a crime to share passwords on entertainment subscription websites, is cracking down on another hot-button online issue -- harassment.

Tennessee's new law makes it a criminal offense for anyone who "communicates with another person or transmits or displays an image in a manner in which there is a reasonable expectation that the image will be viewed by the victim."

A requirement for prosecution is "malicious intent to frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" and applies to those acting "without legitimate purpose," so strictly speaking, a Hollywood horror film shown online probably doesn't apply.

Then again, that sort of thing can be subjectively applied. What stops righteous, family-minded Tennessee law enforcement from cracking down on controversial entertainment content?

Some legal scholars believe the new statute won't pass a First Amendment review by courts. "Pretty clearly unconstitutional, it seems to me," writes Eugene Volokh on his blog.

E-mail: eriqgardner@yahoo.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner

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