Video Taping Another Person in Washington

When can you get in trouble for doing this: 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 that focus on respecting their privacy. 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. That said, in our opinion recording images or videotaping images without sound is given some protection (you can sue for money or file for a Protection Order) but not the degree that Private Communication or Private Conversations get.  Examples of such civil actions, which include misuse of Videotaped material online which is used to harass or do repetitional damage, include:

  • intrusion upon solitude or seclusion of another;
  • public disclosure of private facts (key is public disclosure);
  • publicity which places a person in a false light in the public eye; and
  • appropriation of one’s name or likeness.

In our opinion Washington law takes 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), destroy their reputation, put them in a false light in the opinion of others, or simply to steal their likeness, you will have a civil problem as lawyers would recommend you be sued if real damages can be proved.

  • As we get many calls from people about violations of their privacy, we recommend you use the button at the bottom of our page to buy an hour of time as we generally do not return random calls.  If you think you have real damages we can prove, done by someone worth suing and that a jury of peers would believe, accept and put real value on it, the best way to get our attention is to buy an hour of time because listening to the full story and giving you the correct legal advice does in fact take time.
    • Sometimes we recommend a cease and desist letter, sometimes we recommend a an antiharassment protection order, sometimes we recommend a civil suit, sometimes we recommend nothing … again, all this takes time to figure out ion your going to make a good command decision on a case and we only wish to practice in this manner.

As lawyers, we have assisted helped people file police reports, criminal anti harassment protection orders, sue for defamation, nuisance, invasion of privacy, false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress and harassment 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, (3) they are not publishing those videos to the public to put others in a false light, (4) the video cameras record images, not audio and (5), unfortunately, most violations are various levels of annoying but not actionable.

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  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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