James Cory Lanier was a 20-year-old sophomore political-science major at Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater, when he broke up with his girlfriend last year. Lanier's ex alleges that after the split he threatened to post on the Internet a sex tape they had made unless she had sex with him again. According to her application for an emergency protective order, Lanier threatened that if his ex didn't comply, "things would be really bad" and "get ugly." The woman contacted the police, who charged Lanier with felony blackmail.

The blackmail charge was eventually dismissed; Lanier pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. He now has a restraining order against him and has agreed not to contact his ex. "You have to look at the incident in the context of their relationship," explains Lanier's lawyer, Billy Bock, of Oklahoma City. Bock says he wasn't surprised, considering the nature of the couple's relationship, that they made a sex tape. Nor was he shocked by the idea that some people might use lewd material as leverage for breakup sex. "I don't think either of them realized when they were making that recording and constantly sending and posting messages about sex just how seriously wrong things could go," he says.

Revenge porn is difficult to prosecute because there are no statutes specifically outlawing the practice. So what happens in a revenge-porn case, in effect, is that analog laws are applied to a digital offense. A prime example—in a case that has yet to be resolved—involves Alex Phillips, 17, of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and his 16-year-old ex. Police say Phillips posted two images of her on his MySpace page, one a full-frontal nude, the other a close-up of genitalia. Phillips' ex-girlfriend, identified in police reports as HLK, had e-mailed him the photos when they were dating. But after she started seeing another guy, "TF," Phillips turned to the Web. "Yo tell me this bitch deserves this!!!!!!!" he allegedly wrote in a caption accompanying the full-frontal photo. "TF gets my leftover's to [sic] bad she's fucked."

Phillips was contacted by an officer from the Janesville Police Department, who warned the teenager to take down the photos. According to police reports, Phillips decided to leave them on his profile. "Fuck that," he said, according to the same reports. "I am keeping them up."

Alerted to the case, MySpace deleted Phillips' entire page, and on May 28, Phillips pleaded not guilty in La Crosse County Circuit Court to charges of child pornography, sexual exploitation of a child, and defamation. A trial date has yet to be set.

Given the rise in the number of legal cases involving the use of homemade porn to exact revenge, it seems inevitable that new laws will be passed to address the phenomenon. In the meantime, its mere existence serves as a strong cautionary beacon. "The best advice, of course, is to never, ever create sexual photos, videos, e-mails, text messages, or anything else that someone could keep and share in the future," says Michael Fertik, 30, a Harvard Law School grad and the CEO of ReputationDefender, a California-based privacy-management company. "You have to think of revenge porn almost like an STD: something that can only happen because of mixing sex with irresponsibility."

Is making home movies worth the risk? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.