Celebrities And Snapchat Feuds: Are Recording Phonecalls Legal?
As most people know, there has been on-going feud between Taylor Swift and Kayne West. Last night, more fuel was added to the fire when Kayne’s wife, Kim Kardashian, went to Snapchat and posted recordings of a conversation between Ms. Swift and Mr. West which purport to show that Taylor was aware of off-colored lyrics in one of Mr. West’s songs, and gave her blessing to include before the album released. To date, Taylor denies giving such approval. Taylor went to her Instagram account soon after, writing: “That moment when Kanye West secretly records your phone call.”
Besides the tabloid juiciness of the story, there is an interesting and very serious issue regarding the legality of the recordings. In many states it is illegal to record a telephone conversation without the consent of both parties participating in the telephone conversation. California, where it is believed Mr. West and Ms. Kardashian reside, is one of these “two-party consent states.” In fact, California has some of the strictest laws when it comes to secretly recording telephone conversations. California provides criminal penalties for not gaining consent from all parties, and additional penalties for disseminating or publishing a recording. In addition, California allows for civil remedies for recording a communication without prior consent.
One of the biggest issues is which state Mr. West and Ms. Kardashian were located when they made the recording. For example, in New Jersey, we are a “one-party” consent state. The New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act N.J.S.A. 2A:156A-3 permits a party who is participating in the conversation to record the conversation. In my practice as a matrimonial attorney in New Jersey, the issue of recording telephone communications is very common, as estranged spouses often want to record communications of abuse and/or misconduct on the part of the spouse. In those cases, a spouse who is participating in a conversation with their spouse is legally permitted to record said conversation.
That all being said, even if the Mr. West was lucky enough to have initiated the telephone call from a “one-party consent” state, such as New Jersey, Ms. Kardashian may still not be in the clear. New Jersey law is clear in that the party recording the communication must be a party to a communication; in other words, they must participate in the conversation. In the recordings posted by Ms. Kardashian, it does not appear that she participated in the conversation and therefore was not a party to the conversation, making her recording illegal.
At this time, it is too soon to know what if any civil and/or criminal ramifications Mr. West and Ms. Kardashian might face, but I am sure we will all keep a close eye as the drama unfolds.