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At FoxNews.com, Radley Balko explains why it should always be legal to record the police.

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  1. Radley,
    Any chance this could end badly?

    Yikes.

  2. Radley, do you know if the wiretapping laws apply in cases where there’s constant passive surveillance, possibly depending on conspicuous notifications? Many stores have obvious and hidden security cameras, and some have signs a la “24 hour video recording in effect”. If someone plowed a couple hundred bucks into some cameras and a system that covers the doors and/or the public approaches to their house, would they be considered police wiretappers?

  3. Just remind the officers that if they’re not doing anything wrong they have nothing to fear.

  4. It semems to this simpleton that it’s impossible to be wiretapping in a public place or on your own property. But then I don’t posess a law degree. Was candid camera a criminal organization? Would RICO apply?

  5. gorgonzola,

    I think the law is written so as you may not record somebody without thier consent.

    If I walk into a store, with a sign posted, saying they are recording me, my decision to continue into said store is tantamount to consent.

  6. What about Google’s “street view”? Can they simply freely takes still pictures of public spaces and neighborhoods and place them on the web?

  7. Another good one Radley. Kudos

  8. RTA. In this case, the law prohibits audio, not video, recording without the recordee’s consent.

  9. It seems to this simpleton that it’s impossible to be wiretapping in a public place or on your own property.

    You seem to be under the misapprehension that you have a right to do things the government disapproves of.

    Was candid camera a criminal organization?

    Or, more appropriately, 48 Hours or 60 Minutes?

    In this case, the law prohibits audio, not video, recording without the recordee’s consent.

    I suspect that’s because the law was passed before you could videotape someone without a truckload of equipment. Indeed, several of the cited cases involved video recording, which hints the law is being applied in the broader sense.

  10. Radley Balko explains why it should always be legal to record the police.

    Every breath you take
    Every move you make
    Every bond you break
    Every step you take
    Ill be watching you

    Every single day
    Every word you say
    Every game you play
    Every night you stay
    Ill be watching you

  11. What about Google’s “street view”? Can they simply freely takes still pictures of public spaces and neighborhoods and place them on the web?

    (I am not a lawyer, but) As a general rule, if you are legally present, you can legally take pictures. Property owners may restrict your right to take pictures as a condition of entry to the property. When a government is the owner, you can generally take pictures anywhere outdoors except national security sites. Indoor restrictions are more common, e.g. courts usually prohibit photography.

    (By the way, if you aren’t trespassing, it’s perfectly legal to photograph all kinds of things, including bridges, transportation hubs, power plants, sunbathers, other people’s children, and police activities. It’s also perfectly legal for the police to ask you what the heck you’re doing.)

    Once you’ve taken the photographs, the rules for publishing pictures are more complicated and take into account copyrighted content appearing in the picture, portraying people in a false light, and the right of people to control the use of their likeness. Generally, commercial use—especially advertising—requires permission, but journalism, reference works, and education often don’t. Google’s use is probably similar to a reference work, and it helps that the service is free.

    There are lots of gray areas. For example, commercial use of public property often requires a permit. This is especially true if you wish exclusive access. For example, you can take your wedding photos in the park for free, but if a group of skateboarders is interfering, you have no right to kick them out of a public place.

  12. Windypundit:

    Thanks for the detailed response.

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