By Joshua A. Engel All Articles Law Technology News May 17, 2012
Every time a public figure speaks these days, smartphones are there to record the speech.
A key question: Is this legal?
That was the issue addressed last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The case is American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois v. Alvarez, 7th Cir. No. 11-1286 (May 8, 2012).
The court reviewed a challenge to the Illinois eavesdropping statute that was first adopted and then amended before the invention of smartphones put digital video recorders in everyone’s hands. It makes it a felony to audio record “all or any part of any conversation” unless all parties to the conversation give their consent, and includes any oral communication regardless of whether the communication was intended to be private.
In Chicago, citizens had started a “police accountability program,” which included plans to openly make audiovisual recordings of police officers performing their duties in public places and — a fact that makes the statute applicable — speaking at a volume audible to bystanders. The persons who started or wished to participate in the program feared that they would be subject to prosecution. The ACLU challenged the law on First Amendment grounds on their behalf. <READ MORE>