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Bill Fights Recording, Distributing Video of Crime

Recent postings of violent videos on Internet video-sharing sites like YouTube have led New York Republicans to consider a bill that would criminalize the acts of recording and distributing violence and that of convincing others to commit violent acts in order to be recorded doing so.

Newsday.com reports that the bill creates the felony crime of “unlawful violent recording.” As the bill stands now, those convicted would reportedly face one-and-a-half to four years in prison, plus fines.

Apparently, NY state legislators see a need for a law that protects the victims of intentionally recorded violent acts while punishing those who record and post such acts. The bill also calls for the criminalization of convincing others (whether by bribe, threat, or other means) to engage in violent acts for the purpose of recording and distribution, sources report, providing new laws for criminal defense attorneys to familiarize themselves with.

In recent months, a well-publicized YouTube video featuring several teenage girls beating up a 16-year-old classmate until she blacked out garnered outrage among many groups. The Florida girls are evidently facing a variety of criminal charges, but none specific to their crime, since no law expressly prohibiting the recording and distribution of violent acts existed at the time.

Sources indicate that New York senators behind the bill are looking to diminish the use of the Internet as a forum for glorifying violence and helping criminals rise to fame (or notoriety).

The Republican-American reports that a 2005 study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one-third of high school students admitted to having been in a fight at some point. Of them, a startling one-eighth allegedly required medical attention as a result.

According to sources, one California-based forensic psychologist has categorized the behavior of recording and publicly posting criminal acts as narcissistic, likening it to the tendency of some serial killers to collect newspaper clippings about their crimes.

In other words, he believes such stunts are merely bids for attention and self-glorification. But, according to the North Country Gazette, New York legislators feel that effectively victimizing a person twice is too high a price to pay for such flimsy rewards.

And the trend of taking advantage of the weak and less fortunate has become worrisome.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has apparently released data showing that attacks on and violence against the homeless is currently at its highest level in a decade. Experts see this statistic directly linked to the problem of violence recordings: apparently, some web “entrepreneurs” have successfully recorded homeless people (whom they bribed with money and alcohol) fighting and sold the recordings online.

In all, the proposed legislation illustrates the unique and ever-morphing role played by digital technology in our lives and in our criminal justice system.


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