Dr. Disrespect and Privacy Law

By: Mitchell Lord
Editor: Joshua Francom

Dr. Disrespect is an infamous Twitch streamer, who has recently won Streamer of the Year for 2019. This reminds me of an old controversy which involved taking his persona too far. This is an old controversy; the statute of limitations has well expired in the minds of the denizens of the Internet. Five months is too long for most to consider ‘recent’. As the name implies, he’s known for being edgy, and his E3 live stream was no different. He decided to film every second of his E3 visit to make sure every bit of his disrespectful hyperbole was captured.

That would be fine, but the unthinkable happened: he had to pee. Since he was filming every second of footage, this led to a conundrum. He could choose NOT to film some of the footage or, as he ultimately decided, to film himself going into the bathroom, peeing, and looking over at the guys next to him trying to not attract attention. Needless to say, it wasn’t a winning strategy. It led to his E3 badge being revoked, a two-week suspension, and massive amounts of publicity online. This included a surprising mix of both positive and negative publicity.

Details on the event are scarce, but after some research I found the clips. Surprisingly, in my opinion, it was tame considering the controversy. Unless more video clips become available to provide context, it’s just Dr. Disrespect walking into the bathroom with the cameraman at a distance while he’s using the urinal. There are few people visible on camera. Since it’s a distance shot, they’d be hard to identify, and he’s at least smart enough to make sure nobody can get a clear image of anyone’s genitals. Similarly, the second clip is him walking into a stall, making a dumb joke, and then heading in. In no instance was he clearly announcing intent to violate the privacy of others.

Dr. Disrespect in his natural habitat.

Having done more research, I decided to look for a more explicit standard. Did he violate the law? At the very least, is there a law which is relevant to this situation? Sure enough, I found one. Now, whether he violated this law would be up to a lawyer, and a good defense lawyer could probably get him off anyway, but at least it provides a standard.

There are two relevant laws I could find. Firstly, California Civil Code 1708.8. This law concerns the “invasion of privacy”. Not to quote it completely, the gist is that someone can’t make any sort of recording of another person if there is a “reasonable” expectation of privacy, or a reasonable person would find it offensive. This is where a lot of the debate came in. What is “reasonable”. Is it “reasonable” to not be recorded at E3. Can one be recorded passively in a bathroom? I did more peeking into it, and came across the Peeping Tom laws!

California Penal Code 647(J) defines the examples of where someone has a reasonable protection of privacy. Now, Dr. Disrespect is not a Peeping Tom. The law makes it clear it must be secretly to fall under 647(J). Dr. Disrespect had a full-fledged camera rig, and it was clear people were aware. One person even looks directly into the camera. But, considering places where privacy is expected, a bathroom is at the top of the list for 647(J).

California law is powerful, not even bears can escape California under its watchful gavel.

Now, it is clear Dr. Disrespect’s transgression was accidental, it was still a transgression made in poor judgment. He could possibly be breaking the law. Furthermore, Twitch can be considered liable for it! Punishing Dr. Disrespect may become a matter of survival for Twitch. E3 already punished him, after all, and Twitch needs to show that they are against such things as well.

One other thing to bring up: no less than PewDiePie himself chimed in on this. He believes that Dr. Disrespect was unjustly punished. He points out the accusation that there could have been minors present, doesn’t hold water since E3 doesn’t allow minors. This is not completely true.

E3 doesn’t allow people who are under the age of 17. However, California law defines a minor as under the age of 18. This leaves a one-year window, in which a minor can visit E3. Which would make Dr. Disrespect potentially liable if he accidentally filmed any of them. Of course, figuring this out is almost impossible since he took all the clips offline, save for a few that are recorded. It is still however, worrisome enough to bring up.

Our last topic: justice. Quite frankly, I consider their two-week suspension light. It’s true that it will cost him a large sum of money, but Dr. Disrespect is one of the most popular Twitch streamers. Having enough publicity to be covered by major media outlets means that a two-week break won’t cause him too many problems. In fact, during a previous suspension, his income went up the second he got back because of the increased publicity surrounding his return.

I think Twitch should have given him a fine instead of suspending him. This would have helped balance out the increase in income he’s receiving from publicity and provide a more immediate punishment. What Dr. Disrespect did was (while done out of foolishness and not malice) wrong.

Twitch needs to make sure streamers are provided an incentive to tow the line on what is or is not acceptable. Doing otherwise can lead to instances such as Pewdiepie’s N-bomb, or Logan Paul’s use of a corpse for publicity. Admittedly, some of this happened on YouTube, but the point stands that neither service can provide incentive for actions not to cross the line into criminal. This is especially true in today’s day and age, where quick publicity beats ethics. For many people, it is clear being talked about about is better than being a good person. If we consider the fact he won Streamer of the Year, it worked for him.