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JB Umphrey
JB Umphrey, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Explains legal matters based on 14+ years experience.
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Question re: freedom of press vs unauthorized audio and videotaping

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Question re: freedom of press vs unauthorized audio and videotaping in one's home- with individuals doing the audio tape and videotaping ( employed by a local TV station) giving false names and lying about reason for being in the home- where they audio and videotaped the homeowner in re; to potential sale of some artwork
Welcome and thank you for your question!

I am happy to assist with your question. It would be helpful if you could help me better understand the underlying circumstances.

What state did this occur in?

How did the TV station get access into the home? Can I assume that the homeowner or a resident of the home allowed them entry?

I look forward to your reply.

~~ J.B.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Background- individual sells college football artwrok-photos, lithographs, etc Has had a very reputable company and has worked with several college athletic foundations etc A client requested an item that was created in 1992- and the individual had distributed fro the artitst -however, the artist could not be located as he was in bankruptcy, owed significant amount of money to others, etc So individual copied a previous signed/numbered copy and sold it- total of 4 people had requested and he sold "copies" to all- he used a copy which he had previous sold to another client to copy from -this particular item wholesales for $6 and retails for $30 so not a high end dead- ( Yes this was copyright infringement, and was illegal we have gone through a major lawsuit filled by the original artist- the owner of the copy that was copied became aware of what had happened and instead of confronting individual or sending a "cease and desist letter" this gentleman is an avid supporter of his colllege team- he and 2 other of his football supporters contacted a local TV show investigative reporter - it took them forever to find the artist ( have copies of all the emails etc due to subsequent lawsuit) they set up a "sting"- in conjunction with the TV report having someone contact the individual to look at some additional art work- and arranged to come by the individual's house as it was in close proximity
the gentleman requesting the art work was accompanied by 2 other women, who indicated they worked for this gentleman- and also wanted artwork- in fact they were employed by the tv station and audio and videotaped the meeting- during which the individual presented a copy of the "copied" artwork they then aired it on TV as part of investigative reporting
We are well that the of the copyright issues- the artist filed a $165,000 lawsuit based on Ricoh act- etc- it was clarified that he did not suffer a loss- in fact his business picked up- he had been basically hiding due to other legal matters- he sold over 200 pieces of artwork in 6 months due to the publicity as an artist who had been "wronged" We worked with a high level IP lawyer group, finally settled for $30,000 just to get rid of the case- but the plaintiff;s lawyer drug things out, with additional claims etc- all which our lawyers refuted- obviously this impacted our business as well as costing us significant amount of money- and lesson has been learned
However, the issue of right of privacy and unauthorized audio and videotaping in our home is now the question (in emails we have which were requested from those involved in the try, the reporter even indicated the station lawyers were hesitant as this was a "set up" and would take place in a private home- eventually the lawyers approved- however, the lawyers may not have been aware of the entire format
this was then aired as an investigative reporting segment on the local channel (this station is known for being sleazy and few reputable people watch it-and they were obviously hard up for anything to air
this obviously impacted individual's business and reputation- and
our IP lawyers did a great job particularly in refuting the numerous ricoh claims, identifying lack of damages etc- which is what we hired them for- but I don't think they are very "street savy" ( have examples) and did not think to address this issue in reviewing other cases, have noted that it is a felony in this state to videotape a person in a place with an expectation of privacy without their consent" so- does this also apply to a tv station, freedom of press etc
Thank you for the follow-up response. I just want to make sure that I understand: did the taping occur inside the home or outside the home?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
inside the home and participants did not identify themselves as working for the TV or that they were audio and videotaping
Thank you. And, again, to clarify: the participants were allowed into the home, correct? It's not as if they illegal broke into the home, right?

~~ J.B.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
they were allowed into the house under the pretense that they were interested in buying some artwork
Thank you for your continued patience. That information is very helpful. There are two sources of information that you will find to be insightful.

The first source is Georgia law. Different states have different laws. Georgia is one of those states where, under its laws, not everyone has to know about the taping in order for it to be legal. Instead, just as long as one person in the conversation knows about the recording, then it's legal. Georgia Code § 16-11-66(a) [" (a) Nothing in Code Section 16-11-62 shall prohibit a person from intercepting a wire, oral, or electronic communication where such person is a party to the communication or one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to such interception."]

The second source concerns the application of federal law. In 1999, the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that surreptitious videotaping by an undercover news agency did not to violate federal wiretap laws. The case was Sussman v. American Broadcasting Cos., Inc. and it involved an undercover segment for ABC's Prime Time Live. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case and did not issue any additional comment.

I entirely understand that this is not the answer you were hoping for and I can entirely appreciate the fact that such acts of deception and false pretenses are immoral. However, under current state law and interpretations of federal law, the acts you've described are legal.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back. I am happy to address follow-up questions. Thank you for your business!

~~ J.B.
I see where you read my answer but not where you asked a follow up question or rated my effort to assist you with the law as it relates to your issue. The Site has been having some major systems issues recently so we are not always receiving customer replies or ratings.

If you do have a follow up for me, if you could send it again and let me know this is your second try (so I can let the Site administrators know), I would appreciate it.

Otherwise, if I have answered all of your questions, please take brief moment to rate my assistance to you so that I can receive credit for my work.

Thank you in advance.

~~ J.B.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
the statement "it is a felony in the state of georgia to videotape a person in a place with the expectation of privacy without their consent" is actually the basis for a key case currently going on in the state of Georgia
Also, the ruling that only 1 person need to be aware of a conversation being audio taped actually offers no protection- as the person doing the audio taping is obviously aware that it is being done- and does not have to inform others?
Your understanding is entirely correct. Yes, under Georgia's one-party consent law, only one person to the conversation needs to know about the recording and, yes, it can be the person who is doing the recording.

What the law protects you from is from you having a one-on-one conversation with a person, and a third-party eavesdrops and attempts to record your conversation. An eavesdropper cannot record. A participant to the conversation can record. Indeed, Georgia's law only affords limited protections.

Now, to change gears about the expectation of privacy. The facts you've described are different and this is why my earlier follow-up questions focused on whether or not those folks were authorized to be in the home. Because those folks were authorized to be in the home, there was no expectation of privacy that was invaded. (It would have been different if they had entered the home without permission and consent.)

Does this help to clarify the distinctions? I don't mean to cause frustration by what may seem to be hairsplitting but the distinctions are very, very important.

~~ J.B.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
however, they entered under false pretense
Indeed, their motivation is immoral and unethical. There is no doubt about that.

Importantly, the law does not care about what their ulterior motivation was. Under the law, the only relevant issue is whether or not they had permission to be there. From the facts you've described, they were on the property with permission.

Now, if they aired a store that would outrageously false and filled with knowing lies, the recourse can be to sue for defamation. There is, however, no violation of the criminal laws of eavesdropping or illegal recording.

Is there anything else that I can assist with?

~~ J.B.
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