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When sex tapes become criminal

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Come early 2013, Michael Brent Sewell will stand trial on a felony charge of improper photography and visual recording.

The 32-year-old is accused of posting a sex video he made with his ex-girlfriend on YouTube without her consent.  Sewell has denied those accusations.

The five-year-old state jail felony charge was aimed at people taking pictures and videos without consent for sexual gratification.

"The law is designed to do one thing is that people have privacy and rights they have privacy interests," Harris County Assistant DA John Wakefield said.

Wakefield said the law also protects adults who may have consented to having intimate encounters videotaped but did not consent to have it available for the world to see.

"Whenever you have the transmission of the image that is without the other person's permission, you now have invaded that person's rights," he said.  "You've committed a crime against them."

"When you break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend and they're angry, they might just put this out in the public domain and you can never get it back," FOX 26 legal expert Chris Tritico said.

While more and more scorned lovers might seek revenge by posting sex videos online, prosecuting one of these improper photography charges when both adults consented to the sex video is relatively new for Harris County.

"The law doesn't squarely hit that problem because there was consent in creating the video and so that seems to be a defense for any prosecution," Tritico said.  "She consented to the video when we made it."

Wakefield said the law still applies, even when both parties consent to being recorded.

"You transmit one of these images through an electronic means and you do that without a person's consent and to illicit a sexual response in any person, then you've committed the offense," he said.

Those convicted of improper photography/visual recording face a maximum 2-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

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