Video Taping Another Person in Washington: A Lawyer | Attorney’s Opinion on the Topic.
As people video tape with cell phones or consider installing video surveillance, it is important to know Washington State has rules and laws on video taping others. In our opinion, it is equally important to know that the rules are different for recording private communications or conversations compared to taking or recording images. As lawyers who work in the civil, administrative and criminal arenas, we know Washington has some of the strongest privacy laws surrounding Private Communications and Private Conversations in the nation. Violations of Washington’s communication privacy laws can be punished via a criminal charge or civil suit so read our dedicated section on the topic. That said, in our opinion recording images or videotaping images without sound is given some protection but is not the degree that Private Communication or Private Conversations get.
In our opinion as practicing lawyers, Washington law appears to take the view that the legality of video taping another or taking images of another that does not involve private communication or private conversations really boils down to why you are doing it. If you are video taping someone or taking pictures of someone to invade their privacy or in a way that invades their reasonable expectation of privacy (videotaping a celebrity having sex in their bedroom by using a telephoto lens through a gap in the shades), you will have a civil problem as our lawyers would recommend you be sued at minimum for Invasion of Privacy (Washington law allows for this kind of suit). If you are video taping someone or taking pictures of someone to invade their privacy or in a way that invades their reasonable expectation of privacy you have the same problem and it also could be argued the actions are Harassment, though unlikely criminal harassment without more facts. As lawyers, we have assisted helped and filed criminal anti harassment protection order on this kind of behavior. These examples should confirm what experience and common sense tell you: businesses, hotels and people commonly have video surveillance around their properties and do not get in trouble with the law. Why? In our opinion, it is fairly simple: (1) They are recording where there is not an expectation of privacy, (2) they are not recording to harass others or invade their privacy and (3) the video cameras record images, not “private communications” or “private conversations”.
So can I legally video tape someone else in Washington or not?
In our opinion, if you are not videotaping to invade someone else’s privacy, (for example, filming someone’s bedroom through the window of their house), or recording their private communication or conversation (recording what someone is texting) or recording to civilly harass someone else, you can video tape another or others. That said, with law if you change a fact, you change the possible outcome so chat with a lawyer before relying on this general opinion.
Also keep in mind that there are times you can in fact record private communications or private conversations. Read our section on this topic.
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