By now we are all overly familiar with Don Sterling’s infamous recorded racist tirade which caused him to be banned by the NBA and fined $2.5 million dollars. The “personal” conversation that took place between Mr. Sterling and his “silly rabbit” V. Stiviano has been playing throughout the media over the past couple of weeks. Many of us were horrified, yet not totally shocked, by what we heard and perceived to understand from the recording.
We witnessed the solidarity of the Los Angeles Clippers players as they wore their warm up jerseys inside-out, along with black wrist bands to speak out against the team’s owner. We even heard his “apology” and also watched and listened in awe at the impossible justification of his thoughts and statements.
Though most of us have reached our limit with all things Don Sterling and V. Stiviano, there are a few nuggets of information to take away from this issue that could affect you in the near future, specifically regarding the recording and dissemination of personal and private conversations without consent. V. Stiviano maintains that Mr. Sterling knew he was being recorded. She also stated that she was not the person or entity to release said recordings to the media. Notwithstanding who is the actual culprit in the ultimate downfall of Mr. Sterling’s NBA career as an owner, there are serious legal implications that should be acknowledged and understood from these series of events.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
There are laws on both the state and federal levels which determine the legal ramifications, if any, for recording and disseminating personal and private conversations. Based upon federal law, only one party to the conversation has to be aware of and consent to the electronic recording of a conversation. As long as a single participant to the conversation consents to the taping, the recording does not violate the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (i.e. – “Wiretap Act”). However, on the state level, California, where these recordings took place, has more stringent “wiretap” laws which require all party consent, with a few exceptions.
New York’s wiretapping law is a “one-party consent” law. New York makes it a crime to record to record or eavesdrop on an in-person or telephone conversation unless one party to the conversation consents pursuant to N.Y. Penal Law §§ 250.00, 250.05.
Another example of state laws surrounding the recording and dissemination of private conversations, as recognized by Jackie Ford, partner at Houston and Columbus firm Vorys, includes the 1999 indictment of Linda Tripp for recording telephone conversations with “presidential paramour” Monica Lewinsky. Tripp purportedly recorded conversations with Ms. Lewinsky from her home in Maryland, which is an all-party consent state, then shared them with a writer at Newsweek magazine. “Although the tapes were used to support the impeachment of a president, Tripp was criminally charged for making them. Ultimately, the charges against Tripp were dismissed after a state court ruled that her immunity agreement with federal prosecutors prohibited using the tapes against her.”
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?
As the laws vary from state to state, it is best to become familiar with them before recording and disseminating what may be deemed to be a “private” conversation without the other participant’s consent. Failure to do so may lead to prosecution of criminal charges and possibly on the civil level for damages.
For more information regarding state specific recording and wiretap statutes, please visit the site.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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