For many using your phone in a public area is a constant occurrence. It is a way to keep connected with different interests all around the world. The evolution of smartphones has enabled them to be a multipurpose tool; one tool that is constantly in our grasps. The role of the camera on mobile devices is very important, and has increased our use of public photography. It is a tool that empowers the public to share videos and photos with people all around and create related discussion. Witnessing the impact of public footage in America regarding the shootings of African Americans by police, can give just a small indication of just how powerful a device it actually can be. But why is it that a technology once used for capturing and saving precious memories, can now at times be a corrupted method of bribery and extortion?
Let me set the scene. It’s a Saturday night and you’re in the city with the rest of your teammates celebrating the end of the footy season. This is the culmination and celebration of what you’ve worked towards all season. The effort of those early morning starts, extended fitness sessions, and mentally challenging game situations is now passed you and its time to relax. You have a few beers… and a few more… and a few more, buts it’s all a bit of fun because you’re hanging out with your mates and having a good time. You’re feeling pretty drunk, so you decide its time to go home. You stumble out of the establishment and struggle to the nearest taxi, around 100m down the road. You witness some people with their phones out, but it’s all a bit of a blur and you think nothing more of it.
It’s the morning, you’re feeling pretty groggy, you get out of bed and go and turn on the TV, and to your horror, a drunken video of you has been given to the media for all to see. The one night a year you can celebrate is now a night you wish had never happened.
All too often we see things like this happen to high profile sports stars all around the world. People considered being the elite and respected in society are now paraded as the poster boys for alcohol-fuelled intolerance. But is it really their fault?
These sportsmen and women are regular people just like the rest of us, so why is it assumed that they should be exempt from having a good time like the rest of the public. Certainly there are cases where these stars are in the wrong, and thus should face the consequences. Examples like Joel Monohan… need I say any more? If these celebrities are drunk and do something illegal, than sure use the photo or video as evidence just like it would be used for any person in a similar illegal situation. Though for someone to use footage of an intoxicated sports star just to further scrutinise him or her in a public environment, is nothing more than cowardly.
The increased public appetite for celebrity misdemeanours has led to a surge in the amount of public footage sent in to media organisations. These forms of media are encouraged by the media outlets, and are good pieces of evidence to build a story around. Theses outlets are willing to pay good money for the evidence, and this has been recognised by the public and makes bystanders much more aware of who is around them and what they’re doing. In a roundabout way the media outlets have unmeasurable reporters out there looking for a good story! Recently we saw the example of Parramatta Eels player Corey Norman, who was blackmailed for $30,000 by a woman who was threatening to leak an explicit sex tape of him. The issue was reported to the NRL integrity unit, and the matter was resolved.
The biggest issue with these extortion attempts is the legal side of these images, which are consistently overshadowed by the related evidence. The ‘Arts and Law: Street Photography’ information sheet explains that, “the test of whether the publication of a photograph is defamatory is: does the publication lower the public’s estimation of the person portrayed, expose the person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or cause him or her to be shunned or avoided.” Photography or videos of this nature surely defame the individuals involved, however the legality is forgotten if there is an issue in the footage that implicates the individual or individuals.
These sports stars, although of high social status, should not be treated differently to any other person in society. They work hard for most months of the year to perform at the best of their ability so they can entertain and create enjoyment for the public. Surely they can be forgiven if they want to let their hair out for that one available month in the year. The increased tolerance of public photography has only discouraged sports stars from going into a public environment to celebrate. There needs to be a social change, to accept these high-profile individuals as regular people who strive their hardest to please the sport’s loving public in their respective sports. We shouldn’t be aiming to exploit at every available opportunity those same sport’s stars if by chance they err at times. Pity help ourselves if we came under that same “mantra”!!
- Walter, B. (2010). Monaghan faces sack over Mad Monday dog photo disgrace. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/monaghan-faces-sack-over-mad-monday-dog-photo-disgrace-20101104-17fx1.html
- Arts and Law Centre of Australia, ‘Street Photographers Rights’, Australian Federal Government
- Logue, M. (2016). Police investigate Norman extortion attempt. [online] Dailytelegraph.com.au. Available at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/teams/eels/corey-norman-is-the-victim-of-an-alleged-extortion-attempt-that-has-become-a-police-investigation/news-story/b0d9bae2b572db974edbe75675cc27b6