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Audio recording in public.

Discussion in 'Constitutional Law & Civil Rights' started by Jimbo4872, Jun 1, 2020.

  1. Jimbo4872

    Jimbo4872 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hello. During the recent lockdown, I have been visiting a lot of local parks. While there, I like to record the scenery. I use audio as well so I can verbally note some of the details. I know video recording is legal. In my research though, I have learned that Pennsylvania has some of the strictest laws in the country regarding audio recording. From my limited ability to do so, I have gleaned by reading the law that recording anyone’s voice always requires consent, except when dealing with police officers, and in certain other forums regarding public officials. I find it hard to believe that I am interpreting that correctly though. If I am, that means when my son is blowing out the candles at his party, I would need everyone attending to expressly give their consent for me to record them singing Happy Birthday. If this happens to be done under a pavilion in a public place, I would need to make sure no one else walks by in case they might utter a word that my camera picks up. So my question is, when I am in a park, on a trail, doing my recording, do I need to shut the camera off when I see someone, lest they say speak? Or is there some sort of implied consent at work here, where if they can see that I am speaking while recording, and choose to talk anyway, they are giving their tacit approval to be recorded? Thank you.

    Jim
     
  2. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Here is PA law on audio recordings in a nutshell:

    Pennsylvania's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. Pennsylvania makes it a crime to intercept or record a telephone call or conversation unless all parties to the conversation consent.

    But-But-But, it is far more complex than the above reveals.

    Taking photographs and videos of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is your PROTECTED constitutional right.

    That includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.

    Unfortunately, law enforcement officers often order people to stop taking photographs or video in public places, and sometimes harass, detain or even arrest people who use their cameras or cell phone recording devices in public.

    When in outdoor public spaces where you are legally present, you have the right to capture any image that is within YOUR plain view of sight.

    WARNING - AUDIO content is treated differntly:

    You have a right to capture images in public places, but you don't always have a right to record what people say.

    Pennsylvania's Wiretap Law makes it illegal to record private conversations - which can include conversations in public places - without the consent of all parties to the conversation.

    Conversations with police in the course of their duties are not private conversations, but many other things you may record on a public street are NOT protected conversations.

    If in doubt, PROTECT yourself, don't record audio IF you plan to share the video!

    Additional useful reading, if you desire:

    Are You Recording This? Pennsylvania Wiretap Act - MacElree Harvey
     
  3. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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  4. Jimbo4872

    Jimbo4872 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you both for your responses and links. It does seem to me that, yes, expressed consent is needed for almost any type of audio recording, and implied consent doesn't apply unless nobody present could reasonably have an expectation of privacy. So singing at a birthday party at my home with friends and family would likely be ok to record, but its best not to do so where someone could walk by who may not realize what I am doing. I guess that means I should switch to video only on my future walks in the park, unless I am absolutely certain I am alone. That's a bit disappointing, but the law is the law, and I choose to live under those in Pennsylvania. So I will. Thank you again for the help.

    Jim
     
  5. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Generally speaking, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for calls that occur in public places.
     

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