Videotaping, Taking Pictures, and Recording Speech

In This Section:

The Basics

  • Public Forums: Are you in an outside area where students and others congregate? Are you lawfully in a public place? You and anyone else in a public forum have the right to openly videotape and take pictures.
  • Events Open to Student Groups: Check your school rules. If there is a blanket rule forbidding videotaping, you may be able to challenge the rule on First Amendment grounds. Also, it’s generally a good idea to seek permission from speakers before you videotape. Not only is it the considerate thing to do, but it may help protect you against potential royalty claims later made by the speaker.
  • Private and Limited-Access Areas: There is no right to videotape without consent in private areas such as dorm rooms, locker rooms, or in certain areas with limited access (administrative offices etc.).
  • Secret recordings: Many states criminalize hidden recordings and require the consent of all parties. Some states permit recording as long as one party consents. Check the rules for your state here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I film a protest or a counterprotest?

If you’re in a public area, you have the right to videotape or take pictures of anything that is in plain view. Private property owners (including private universities), may set rules with respect to photography and videotaping.

Can I record a phone conversation with a journalist if I’m worried I’ll be misquoted or my words will be taken out of context?

Many states criminalize hidden recordings and require the consent of all parties. Check the rules for your state here and contact us if you have a question. If you’d like to tape a conversation, you can always ask the journalist if he/she/they will consent to being taped.  

Disclaimer: Do not rely on these materials without first seeking the advice of an attorney about your particular situation and facts. Only a licensed attorney, reviewing your individual facts, may render legal advice. This information is provided as a public resource for information purposes only. Nothing in this resource should be taken to create an attorney-client relationship between you and Palestine Legal.