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In-person conversations

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  • Alabama

    The consent of at least one party to a communication is needed to record a private conversation. Ala. Code §13A-11-30. This means a reporter’s recorded conversation with a source would be permissible.

    However, there is no need to obtain consent to record conversations held in public places, where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.  Ala. Code § 13A-11-30(2).

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  • Alaska

    A reporter may record any in-person conversation with a subject, as the state requires the consent of just one party to the conversation. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 42.20.310. The state’s highest court has long held that the eavesdropping statute was intended to prohibit only third-party interception of communications and thus doesn’t apply to a participant in a conversation. Palmer v. Alaska, 604 P.2d 1106, 1108 n.5 (Alaska 1979).

    The statute does not specifically exclude conversations where parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in public places. However, the Ninth Circuit, which includes Alaska, has held that there is a First Amendment right to record matters of public interest, which “includes the right to record law enforcement officers engaged in the exercise of their official duties in public places.” Askins v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., 899 F.3d 1035, 1044 (9th Cir. 2018).

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  • Arizona

    Consent from at least one party is required for the recording of an in-person conversation. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3005.

    The statute defines “oral communication” to be one in which a person has a justified expectation that the conversation will not be intercepted. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3001. However, in what may have been an error by the legislature, the section requiring one party’s consent, § 13-3005, does not actually use the phrase “oral communication.” Therefore, it is not clear whether the statute explicitly only applies to situations in which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    A state appellate court, however, read the statute to have such a limitation in 1984, even before the definition of “oral communication” was added to the statute. In Arizona v. Hauss, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that a criminal defendant’s contention that police officers violated the state’s eavesdropping law by recording a conversation between him and his girlfriend without his consent was meritless because the pair had no reasonable expectation of privacy in a police interrogation room. 688 P.2d 1051 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1984).

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  • Arkansas

    At least one party must give consent in order to record an in-person conversation, unless the person recording is a party to the conversation. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-60-120.

    In some instances, the court may find implied consent. For example, in 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that a mother of a mentally disabled son could not hold a care facility at which her son had been a patient liable for invasion of privacy under Arkansas law, since the mother knew some of her conversations with the facility’s employees were being recorded and did not protest. Alexander v. Pathfinder, Inc., 189 F.3d 735 (8th Cir. 1999).

    Unlike many states’ recording laws, the statute does not specifically require parties to have a reasonable expectation of privacy in order for the law to apply, implying it might even apply in public places.

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  • California

    All parties to any confidential communication must give permission to be recorded, according to California’s eavesdropping law. Cal. Penal Code § 632(a). The law, however, specifically excludes from its application any conversations occurring in public places or government proceedings open to the public, or where the participants could reasonably expect to be overheard or recorded. Cal. Penal Code § 632(c).

    Additionally, California’s so-called “anti-paparazzi” law prohibits trespassing with the intent of capturing photos or sound recordings of people in “private, personal, or familial activity.” Cal. Civil Code § 1708.8. Using a device to capture such photos or recordings — that would have otherwise required a trespass — is prohibited as well. Id. Committing an assault or falsely imprisoning subjects of a photo or sound recording can also lead to violations of the law. Cal. Civil Code § 1708.8(c).

    Similarly, the state’s vehicle code includes penalties for anyone who interferes with the driver of a vehicle, follows too closely or drives recklessly “with the intent to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of another person for a commercial purpose.” Cal. Veh. Code § 40008.

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  • Colorado

    The state’s eavesdropping law requires the consent of at least one participant to a conversation before any recording can take place, unless the parties to the conversation do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy (such as in public places). Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-304; see Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-301 (defining “oral communication”); People v. Lesslie, 939 P.2d 443, 446 (Colo. App. 1996) (holding that “oral communication” is synonymous with “conversation” as used in the eavesdropping statute).

    Colorado specifically carves out an exemption for news media from its eavesdropping and wiretapping statutes, stating that its laws are not to be “interpreted to prevent a news agency, or an employee thereof, from using the accepted tools and equipment of that news medium in the course of reporting or investigating a public and newsworthy event.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-305.

    Individuals also have the right to record “any incident involving” a police officer in Colorado, regardless of consent. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 16-3-311. The police officer generally may not seize the recording or recording device without the individual’s consent, without a search warrant or subpoena, or unless it is done in certain emergency circumstances to save a life or prevent the destruction of the recording while a warrant is obtained. Id.

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  • Connecticut

    A person not present at a conversation must obtain the consent of at least one participant before any recording can take place under the state’s eavesdropping law. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-187, -189.

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  • Delaware

    There is a conflict in the state’s laws on recording private communications, so it is advisable to follow the stricter law and obtain consent first from all parties.

    The state’s privacy law requires the consent of all parties to overhear or record a private communication, though at least one federal court has held that a party can record his or her own conversation without permission of the other parties. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1335(a)(4); see United States v. Vespe, 389 F. Supp. 1359 (D. Del. 1975).

    The state’s wiretapping law, however, permits an individual to record oral conversations where either the person is a party to the conversation or at least one of the participants has consented to the recording, so long as the recording or interception is not done for the purpose of committing a criminal or tortious act. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 2402(c)(4).

    Under either law, there is no need to obtain consent to record conversations held in public places, where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1335(a)(4); § 2401(13).

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  • District of Columbia

    The consent of at least one participant to a conversation is required before any recording can take place under the District’s wiretapping law. D.C. Code § 23-542. This means a reporter’s recorded conversation with a source, without the source’s permission, would be permissible, since the reporter was a party to the conversation.

    There is also no need to obtain consent to record conversations held in public places, where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. See definition of “oral communication,” D.C. Code § 23-541(2).

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  • Florida

    All parties to any confidential communication must give permission to be recorded, according to Florida’s eavesdropping law. Fla. Stat. § 934.03(2)(d).

    Under the statute, consent is not required for the recording of an oral communication spoken by a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication. See definition of “oral communication,” Fla. Stat. § 934.02. For example, a speech made by the mayor at the grand opening of a new city park would not create a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of that communication.

    The statute also explicitly excludes communications at public meetings from the consent requirements. Fla. Stat. § 934.02.

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  • Georgia

    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).

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  • Hawaii

    The consent requirements for recording conversations depends on the location of those conversations. Hawai‘i’s eavesdropping law generally permits an individual to record oral conversations where either the person is a party to the conversation or at least one of the participants has consented to the recording. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 803-42(b)(3)(A). Under that law, consent is not required for the recording of an oral communication spoken by a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication. See definition of “oral communication,” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 803-41.

    The state’s privacy law, however, imposes stricter requirements for recording conversations occurring in what it calls a “private place.” A “private place” is defined as “where one may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance but does not include a place to which the public or a substantial group thereof has access.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 711-1100. In those spaces, an individual must obtain the consent of all parties who are entitled to privacy before installing or using a recording device to capture sounds from the private place that would not otherwise be audible or comprehensible outside the place. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 711-1111.

    The privacy law, however, specifically permits the recording of police officers in the performance of their duties “under circumstances in which the officer has no reasonable expectation of privacy.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 711-1111(1)(d).

    Additionally, the Supreme Court of Hawai‘i has held that the “filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities,” is protected by the First Amendment and by the Hawai‘i constitution. State v. Russo, 407 P.3d 137 (Haw. 2017).

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  • Idaho

    At least one party must give consent before someone can record an in-person conversation in Idaho. Idaho Code Ann. § 18-6702(2)(d). Consent, however, is not required to record an in-person communication spoken by a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication. See definition of “oral communication,” Idaho Code Ann. § 18-6701(2).

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  • Illinois

    The state requires all parties to a conversation to give consent before one can record “all or any part of any” private oral conversation. 720 Ill. Compiled Stat. 5/14-2(a)(1). The eavesdropping provisions apply when at least one of the participants reasonably intended the conversation to be private. 720 Ill. Compiled Stat. 5/14-1(d).

    Like many states, Illinois’ law has an exception for recordings by police officers acting in the scope of their law enforcement duties. 720 Ill. Compiled Stat. 5/14-3(g).The law also specifically exempts the recording of any meeting required to be open under the Illinois Open Meetings Act. 720 Ill. Compiled Stat. 5/14-3(e).

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  • Indiana

    The state’s interception statute does not address the recording of in-person conversations.

    Indiana’s surveillance statute, however, makes it a misdemeanor for a person to record “images or data of any kind” with a camera or other device while unattended on the private property of another person without that person’s consent. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-46-8.5-1. It is unclear if “data of any kind” would include the contents of oral conversations.

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  • Iowa

    Iowa’s eavesdropping law permits someone to record a private conversation if the person making the recording is openly present and participating or listening in the conversation. Iowa Code Ann. § 727.8.

    The state has conflicting laws regarding recordings by someone who is not a participant in the conversation, with the most strict — the eavesdropping law — making it a serious misdemeanor regardless of consent. Id. The state’s “Interception of Communications” statute, however, makes it a felony to willfully intercept or record the contents of a confidential in-person conversation without the consent of at least one party to the conversation. Iowa Code Ann. § 808B.2(2)(c). The statute does not apply, however, to conversations in which the participants do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in public places. See definition of “oral communications,” Iowa Code Ann. § 808B.1(8).

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  • Kansas

    The state’s privacy law makes it a misdemeanor to secretly use any device to listen to, record or amplify a private conversation in a private place "without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy therein.” Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6101(a)(4). The Kansas Supreme Court has interpreted this, however, to require only one party’s consent; once one party provides consent, the non-consenting parties lose their right to challenge the recording. State v. Roudybush, 686 P.2d 100, 108 (Kan. 1984).

    The law also prohibits a person from entering a private place with the intent to secretly listen to private conversations there. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6101(a)(3).

    The law defines a “private place” as somewhere a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6101(f). Therefore, one does not need consent to record conversations in public and in other places in which the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

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  • Kentucky

    It is a felony to overhear or record an in-person conversation without the consent of at least one party to that conversation. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 526.020. The eavesdropping law also makes it a felony to install a device in a place with the intention of overhearing or recording a conversation without at least one party’s consent. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 526.030.

    The law does not explicitly limit itself to conversations in which parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, the statute’s commentary — which is not legally binding, but may be used by courts to interpret the law — notes that because the provision requires the use of an eavesdropping device, “[a] conversation which is loud enough to be heard through the wall or through the heating system without the use of any device is not protected.” Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 526.020, Commentary. The commentary describes the law as applying to “private oral communications,” which it indicates are those that “cannot be overheard by the ordinary ear.” Id.

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  • Louisiana

    Under the state’s Electronic Surveillance Act, a person may not record or use a device to overhear a private conversation to which that person is not a party unless at least one party to the conversation consents to the recording. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1303.

    The statute only applies to conversations in which parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy, so consent is not required to record conversations in public or in other places where parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. See definition of “oral communication,” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1302(15).

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  • Maine

    A person may not use a device to hear or record — or have another person use a device to hear or record — a private conversation unless she or he is a participant in the conversation or received consent to record from at least one of the parties to the conversation. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 15, §§ 709, 710.  Additionally, the recording of conversations occurring in “private places” — which include “changing or dressing rooms, bathrooms and similar places” — requires the consent of all persons entitled to privacy in that place, if the sounds would not ordinarily be audible or comprehensible outside that place. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 511.

    However, a person does not need consent to record conversations in places in which the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, or conversations within the person’s range of normal unaided hearing. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 15, § 709.

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  • Maryland

    The Maryland Wiretap Act permits a party to any private in-person conversation to record with consent of all parties to that conversation. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 10-402(c)(3). Recording is illegal even with full consent if it is done for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act. Id.

    The consent requirement, however, only applies to a “private conversation,” which the Maryland Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court — has held only includes conversations in which parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 10-401(13)(i); Agnew v. State, 197 A.3d 27, 35 (Md. 2018). For example, where a person in a private apartment was speaking so loudly that residents of an adjoining apartment could hear without any sound enhancing device, recording without the speaker’s consent did not violate the wiretap law. Malpas v. Maryland, 695 A.2d 588 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1997).

    The Maryland Wiretap Act makes it a felony to record any telephone or electronic communication unless one is a party to the communication and all other parties give their consent. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 10-402(c)(3). Telephone conversations are protected by the Wiretap Act regardless of whether the parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Fearnow v. Chesapeake & Potomac Tel. Co., 655 A.2d 1, 18 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1995), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 342 Md. 363, 676 A.2d 65 (1996), and abrogated on other grounds by Deibler v. State, 776 A.2d 657 (Md. 2001).

    Because the provision of the statute dealing with electronic communications applies to “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature,” consent likewise is required from all parties to intercept the contents of text or email messages sent between electronic devices. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 10-401(5). However, courts have held that an interception must occur at the time the communication is in transit for the Wiretap Act to apply, and thus the law does not apply to a person accessing text messages stored on a phone after they were sent and received. Martin v. State, 96 A.3d 765, 776 (Md. 2014) (noting also that merely accessing texts stored on the cellphone did not require the use of an interception device, which is required for the Wiretap Act to apply).

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  • Massachusetts

    The state requires all parties to a conversation to give consent before one can record any in-person conversation. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 272, § 99(C). An appellate court has held that even if the recorded conversation is of poor audio quality, at least some audible words is enough to violate the wiretapping law. Massachusetts v. Wright, 814 N.E.2d 741 (Mass. App. Ct. 2004).

    One appellate court has held that the all-party consent rule applies whether the conversation is held in private or a public location. See Massachusetts v. Manzelli, 864 N.E.2d 566 (Mass. App. Ct. 2007). But a federal district court has more recently clarified that it does not apply to secret recordings of government officials, including police officers, in the performance of their duties in public. See Martin v. Gross, 340 F.Supp.3d 87 (D. Mass. 2018), appeal pending.

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  • Michigan

    The state requires all parties to give consent before a third party, who is not part of the conversation, can record any private in-person conversation. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.539c.

    Courts disagree, however, on whether this law allows a participant in the conversation to record without the permission of the other parties, so the safer approach would be to get consent. A longstanding Michigan Court of Appeals decision found that a participant in a private conversation does not need all parties’ consent to record that conversation. Sullivan v. Gray, 324 N.W.2d 58 (Mich. Ct. App. 1982). More recently, a federal district court held that participants must get permission from every party to record a private conversation. AFT Michigan v. Project Veritas, 397 F. Supp. 3d 981, 989 (E.D. Mich. 2019). The Michigan Supreme Court — the final authority on matters of state law — has not yet addressed the issue.

    The Michigan Supreme Court has, however, held that, because the law only applies to a “private conversation,” one must get permission to record a conversation only when a party to that conversation has a reasonable expectation of privacy. People v. Stone, 621 N.W.2d 702, 704 (Mich. 2001). Accordingly, one does not need consent to record conversations occurring in public places, such as parks and sidewalks.

    Separately, the state’s hidden camera law applies to the recording of sound in addition to video. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.539d. Thus, the recording of conversations occurring in private places without the permission of each party entitled to privacy would be a felony under that law. Id.

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  • Minnesota

    A person may record an in-person conversation if that person is a party to it, or if one of the parties has consented to the recording — so long as no criminal or tortious intent accompanies the recording. Minn. Stat. § 626A.02(2)(d). Recordings made with at least one party’s consent and exclusively for the purpose of news reporting therefore do not violate Minnesota’s recording law. Copeland v. Hubbard Broad., Inc., 526 N.W.2d 402, 406 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995)..

    However, a person does not need consent to record conversations in places in which the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. See definition of “oral communication,” Minn. Stat. § 626A.01.

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  • Mississippi

    A person can record an in-person conversation to which that person is present and participating, or in circumstances where consent to record is given by at least one of the parties, unless the recording was accompanied by a criminal or tortious intent. Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-531(e).

    A person does not need consent, however, to record conversations in places in which the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. See definition of “oral communication,” Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-501(j).

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  • Missouri

    In general, one must obtain the permission of all parties before recording private in-person conversations.

    The Missouri wiretap law makes it unlawful to record any oral communication of someone with a justified expectation that the communication is not being recorded, if the recording device “transmits communications by radio or interferes with the transmission of such communication.” Mo. Ann. Stat. § 542.402.1(2). There are few cases interpreting this provision of the statute, so the cautious approach would be to get consent of all parties before recording private conversations.

    However, a journalist may record, regardless of consent, conversations in public where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

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  • Montana

    It is unlawful to record a conversation “by use of a hidden electronic or mechanical device” without the knowledge of all parties to the conversation. Mont. Code Ann. § 45-8-213(1)(c).

    The prohibition does not apply, however, to: 1) recordings by elected or appointed public officials or public employees when the recording occurs in the performance of an official duty; 2) recordings of individuals speaking at public meetings; 3) recordings of individuals given a warning of the recording; and 4) recordings of certain healthcare emergency communications, when the recording is made by the health care facility. Mont. Code Ann. § 45-8-213(2)(a). When one party provides a warning, either party may record the conversation. Id.

     Because the statute explicitly applies only to hidden recording devices, a journalist does not need consent to record conversations in public where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

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  • Nebraska

    Nebraska requires the consent of at least one party to record an in-person conversation if the person being recorded has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 86-283, -290. Consent is inadequate if the recording is done for a criminal or tortious purpose. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 86-290.

    However, a journalist does not need consent to record conversations in public where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

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  • Nevada

    It is unlawful to surreptitiously record “any private conversation engaged in by ... other persons” unless authorized to do so by one of the parties to the conversation. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 200.650.

    Because the law explicitly applies only to private conversations, a journalist does not need consent to record conversations in public where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

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  • New Hampshire

    It is unlawful to record people who have a reasonable expectation that their communications are not being recorded without first obtaining the consent of all parties in the conversation. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 570-A:1, 570-A:2.

    A journalist does not need consent, however, to record conversations in public where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

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  • New Jersey

    New Jersey’s Wiretapping Act requires the consent of at least one party to a conversation before recording an in-person conversation in which a person has a reasonable expectation that such communication is not subject to recording. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:156A-2, -3, -4. Recordings made “for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act” are illegal regardless of consent. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:156A-4.

    A journalist does not need consent, however, to record conversations in public where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy or in other places parties should know they are being recorded. For example, a state appellate court held that the circumstances surrounding a news organization’s recording of events in a hospital emergency room indicated there was no reasonable expectation of privacy for any conversations captured by the filming. Kinsella v. Welch, 827 A.2d 325 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2003). “The record does not suggest that any of [the news media’s] videotaping was done surreptitiously. In fact, the footage in the two programs produced from the videotaping at [the hospital] appear to have been taken with hand-held cameras that would have been evident to any person who was being videotaped. Therefore, there is no basis for concluding that [the news organization] violated the Wiretapping Act in videotaping plaintiff. . . .” Id.

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  • New York

    New York’s eavesdropping law makes it a felony to use a device to overhear or record in-person conversations at which one is not present without the consent of at least one party to that conversation. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 250.00, 250.05.

    A state appellate court held that individuals who talk in a manner such that a non-participating third party may freely overhear the conversation have no reasonable expectation of privacy in it. McLaughlin v. McLaughlin, 961 N.Y.S.2d 838, 840 (N.Y. App. Div. 2013); New York v. Kirsh, 575 N.Y.S.2d 306, 307 (N.Y. App. Div. 1991). Thus, a journalist does not need consent to record conversations in public where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

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  • Oregon

    It is unlawful to record an in-person conversation unless all participants to the conversation are specifically informed that it is being recorded. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 165.535, 165.540.

    However, the prohibition does not apply when recording, with an unconcealed recording device, statements that are part of any of the following proceedings: 1) public or semipublic meetings, such as hearings before governmental or quasi-governmental bodies, trials, press conferences, public speeches, rallies and sporting or other events; 2) regularly scheduled classes or similar educational activities in public or private institutions; or 3) private meetings or conferences if all others involved knew or reasonably should have known that the recording was being made. Id.

    Thus, the Oregon Court of Appeals has held that the all-party notification requirement does not impermissibly burden the news media in violation of the First Amendment because it does not restrict a journalist’s right to communicate with individuals or gather news. Oregon v. Knobel, 777 P.2d 985, 988 (Or. Ct. App. 1989).

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  • Pennsylvania

    To lawfully record an in-person conversation in Pennsylvania, an individual must obtain the consent of all parties to the conversation. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 5703, 5704(4).

    However, the consent requirement only applies where the parties have a reasonable expectation that their conversation is not being overheard or recorded. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5702. Thus, a journalist does not need consent to record conversations in public where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

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