Reporter's Recording Guide
Last updated May 2020Compare
An individual may record or disclose the contents of an in-person, telephone or electronic communication if he or she is a party to the communication or has received prior consent from one of the parties.
The state also prohibits the use of cameras to observe private activities without the consent of all parties involved, and also prohibits disclosure of the contents of illegally obtained video recordings or images.
Violators of these rules can face criminal penalties and/or civil lawsuits.Compare
An individual can record in-person conversations where either the person is a party to the conversation or at least one of the participants has consented to the recording. Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-62, -66(a).
The statute only applies to the “private conversation of another which shall originate in any private place,” so consent would not be required to record conversations occurring in public. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-62(1).
State law also prohibits trespassing on private property to eavesdrop or secretly observe activities of another. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-62(3).Compare
Telephone and electronic communications
Similarly, a person who is either a participant in a telephone or other electronic communication, or with consent from one of the participants, is allowed to record or intercept any such communication. Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-62, -66(a).
Like some other states, Georgia’s wiretapping and eavesdropping statutes specifically allow for a parent or guardian to secretly record or listen to telephone conversations of minor children without consent for the purpose of ensuring their welfare. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-66(d).Compare
Georgia prohibits the use of a camera “without the consent of all persons observed, to observe, photograph, or record the activities of another which occur in any private place and out of public view.” Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-62(2). A private place is defined as one in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-60(3).
The Georgia Supreme Court has explained that the all-parties consent requirement for video recording in private places applies to images, while the statute’s one-party consent requirement applies to sound. State v. Cohen, 807 S.E.2d 861 (Ga. 2017).Compare
Violation of any provisions of the statute is a felony and carries a penalty of imprisonment between one and five years or a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-69.Compare
While the eavesdropping and wiretapping laws do not explicitly list potential civil penalties, courts have held that those whose conversations were recorded without at least one party’s consent in violation of the laws can bring civil lawsuits against the violators. Kemeness v. Worth Cty., No. 1:19-CV-120 (LAG), 2020 WL 2764020, at *7 (M.D. Ga. Mar. 18, 2020).Compare
It is illegal for any person to divulge or distribute to any person photographs or video of another’s activities in a private place without the consent of all parties involved. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-62(6).
If a journalist received an illegally recorded conversation and was not involved in the illegal conduct, the First Amendment likely protects the publication of such material, to the extent it is a matter of public concern and truthful. See Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001). For more information, see this guide’s introductory chapter here.Compare
Right to record government officials in public
A growing consensus of courts have recognized a constitutional right to record government officials engaged in their duties in a public place. This First Amendment right to record generally encompasses both video and audio recording. For more information on the right to record broadly, see this guide’s introductory chapter here.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which includes Georgia, has held that there is a First Amendment right to record matters of public interest, including the conduct of police occurring on public property. See Toole v. City of Atlanta, 798 F. App’x 381, 387–88 (11th Cir. 2019); Smith v. City of Cumming, 212 F.3d 1332 (11th Cir. 2000).Compare