Guide To PA Wiretapping Laws
We must capture sound for our class projects. This is legal when you are recording yourself speaking. It is also legal even if you are playing someone’s copyrighted music because of our fair use rights as students. However, be careful when recording others. PA state law requires that you ask permission of others before you record them. Otherwise, you could be charged with a felony of the third degree, which could get you up to seven years in prison if you have a really terrible lawyer.
18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5703 (Interception, disclosure or use of wire, electronic or oral communications) currently states:
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if he:
- (1) intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, electronic or oral communication;
- (2) intentionally discloses or endeavors to disclose to any other person the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication, or evidence derived therefrom, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, electronic or oral communication; or
- (3) intentionally uses or endeavors to use the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication, or evidence derived therefrom, knowing or having reason to know, that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, electronic or oral communication.
An excerpt from 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5704 (Exceptions to prohibition of interception and disclosure of communications) currently states:
It shall not be unlawful and no prior court approval shall be required under this chapter for:
- (4) A person, to intercept a wire, electronic or oral communication, where all parties to the communication have given prior consent to such interception.
Obtain consent. Always. You don’t want to find out someone’s really protective of their privacy after the fact. I recommend asking politely and explaining that you are doing a class project. Be prepared to explain how you will use your subjects’ voices.
THE BENEFIT OF KNOWING THE LAW: No felony charges!
I consulted Westlaw to find these statutes.
Contradictory disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, so you shouldn’t take my advice, even though I wrote this nice post about the law. If you choose to follow my advice and something gets messed up, I’m not responsible.