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You’ve probably broken the law on Snapchat without even realising it

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David Cornish
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You're probably familiar with Snapchat, yes? Of course you are - you're a man of the world, eager to engage in the dissemination of brief snaps of your cool, active, interesting life.

But are you aware that if you were to take a screenshot of an image someone sent to you privately, and then send that screenshot to someone else, you can be sued by the original sender – and even face a prison sentence?

We weren't. It only came to our attention after Culture Minister Ed Vaizey outlined the legal pitfalls of pinching and sharing a private Snapchat.

Vaizey was asked by fellow MP Jim Shannon what steps the Government was taking to ensure that Snapchat images were not "made public without the consent of the image owner". In a written Parliamentary answer, Vaizey outlined that anyone who has sent a screenshot of an image to another person without the sender's consent might have broken the law on two fronts.

  • You've probably broken the law on Snapchat without even realising it

    Breaking copyright law

    "Under UK copyright law, it would be unlawful for a Snapchat user to copy an image and make it available to the public without the consent of the image owner," explained Vaizey.

    "The image owner would be able to sue anyone who does this for copyright infringement."

    So, if you were to have received this selfie from Diafra Sakho et al, captured it with a screenshot and then sent it without Sakho's permission, you've technically abused his rights as the copyright holder. 

    But things get a lot worse if the content is... explicit.

  • You've probably broken the law on Snapchat without even realising it 1

    The disclosure of private sexual photos

    Ed Vaizey outlined how things are a lot worse if you've been taking screenshots of more personal images and sending them on to your mates.

    "The disclosure of private sexual photographs or films without the consent of an individual who appears in them and with intent to cause that individual distress, is an offence under Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015," which carries a far more serious weight of punishment.

    "Those convicted could face a maximum sentence of two years in prison."

    With these legal parameters more clearly defined by the culture minister, you don't have much of an excuse if someone finds you've been sharing images sent to you in confidence.

    Best practice - never take a screenshot and share it. It's bad form. And illegal. 

    (Images: Rex, Shutterstock)

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David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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