State Law: Recording

Each state has its own wiretapping statute and its own rule on how many parties need to consent to the recording of a phone call or conversation in order to make it lawful. State law also varies on whether or not (and under what circumstances) you are permitted to use recording devices in public meetings and court hearings. Choose your state from the list below for state-specific information on recording laws.


Practical Tips for Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings, and Hearings

Using a recording device, such as a microphone, video recorder, or camera, is a helpful way to capture and preserve information about conversations, interviews, and phone calls in which you participate. It is also a good way to document what takes place in a court hearing or public meeting, whether for personal reference or later broadcast over the Internet. A number of laws affect your ability to use a recording device in these contexts. Here are some practical tips to help you avoid legal trouble when recording conversations, phone calls, meetings, and hearings.

Recording Phone Calls and Conversations

If you plan to record telephone calls or in-person conversations (including by recording video that captures sound), you should be aware that there are federal and state wiretapping laws that may limit your ability to do so. These laws not only expose you to the risk of criminal prosecution, but also potentially give an injured party a civil claim for money damages against you.

Acquiring Documents and Other Property

Sometimes, you may want to acquire documents or other tangible property in order to develop a story or confirm the accuracy of facts learned from a source. This could include anything from a photograph to a computer hard drive to internal documents belonging to a company or government body. The following sections address some of the legal issues you could face in acquiring documents and other property:

Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings

Using a recording device, such as a microphone, video recorder, or camera, is often a helpful way to capture and preserve information about conversations, interviews, and phone calls in which you participate. It is also a good way to document what takes place in a court hearing or public meeting, whether for personal reference or later broadcast over the Internet.

Gathering Private Information

If you physically enter a private area, photograph or take video of people engaged in private activities in places where they reasonably expect to be private, or in some other other way intrude into a person's privacy (by, for example, opening the person's mail), you could be liable for a violation of what is called "intrusion upon seclusion." If you collect certain personal data, this can also intrude into a person's private affairs.

Julius Baer Bank and Trust v. Wikileaks



Threat Type: 


Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Wikileaks; Dynadot LLC, Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

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Court Type: 


Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Case Number: 


Legal Counsel: 

Garret D. Murai (for Dynadot); Thomas R. Burke, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (for media amici); Karl Olson, Levy, Ram & Olson LLP (for intervenor Public Citizen and California First Amendment Coalition); Ann Brick, American Civil Liberties Union (for i

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Injunction Denied
Injunction Issued


On February 6, 2008, Julius Baer Bank and Trust Company, a Cayman Islands banking entity, filed suit in federal court in California against Wikileaks, which is developing an "uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis." Two days later, the bank and its Swiss parent company filed an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order seeking to enjoin Wikileaks from publishing or distributing copies of documents the plaintiffs claim contain "stolen or otherwise wrongfully obtained confidential and protected bank files and records."

On February 15, 2008, the court issued what it captioned as an "Order Granting Permanent Injunction." This order, which appears to be the result of a stipulation between the plaintiffs and Dynadot, Wikileaks' domain name registrar and web host, required that Dynadot immediately disable the entire domain name and account and remove all DNS hosting records.

Later that same day, the court issued an Amended Temporary Restraining Order that enjoins Wikileaks and and "all others who receive notice of this order" from "displaying, posting, publishing, distributing, or linking to . . . all documents and information originating from [the plaintiffs' banks] which are internal non-public company documents and/or which contains private client or customer bank records."

As of February 28, 2008, the domain is still down, but the organization issued a press release through one of its mirror sites:

Transparency group Wikileaks forcibly censored at ex-parte Californian hearing -- ordered to print blank pages -- '' name forcibly deleted from Californian domain registrar -- the best justice Cayman Islands money launderers can buy?

When the transparency group Wikileaks was censored in China last year, no-one was too surprised. After all, the Chinese government also censors the Paris based Reporters Sans Frontiers and New York Based Human Rights Watch. And when Wikileaks published the secret censorship lists of Thailand's military Junta, no-one was too surprised when people in that country had to go to extra lengths to read the site. But on Friday the 15th, February 2008, in the home of the free and the land of the brave, and a constitution which states "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press", the press was shutdown.

On February 28, Julius Baer issued a press release stating:

It is not and has never been Julius Baer's intention to stifle anyone's right to free speech. Indeed, Julius Baer has specifically made no attempt to remove material on the website which refers to the organization but which does not include information personal to its customers. However, Julius Baer denies the authenticity of this material and wholly rejects the serious and defamatory allegations which it contains.


The court has scheduled a hearing on the injunction for February 29, 2008 at 9:00AM.

2/26/08 - Coalition of media companies filed an Amici Curiae brief primarily addressing the issue of prior restraints

2/26/08 - ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a motion to intervene

2/26/08 - Public Citizen and the California First Amendment Coalition filed a motion to intervene that argues that the court did not have jurisdiction in the case, and therefore had no power to issue the injunctions

2/28/08 - Plaintiffs filed opposition to the motions by Amici and potential intervenors

2/28/08 - John Shipton, the owner of the domain, filed a Notice of Intent to Appear and Joinder in Motions & Oppositions of Amici/Intervenors

2/28/08 - Daniel Mathews, a user of the site who was served with the TRO by the plaintiffs, filed a Memorandum in Opposition to TRO, Preliminary Injunction, and Permanent Injunction

2/29/08 - Court held hearing on the TRO; judge vacated the Permanent Injunction against Dynadot and tentatively denied the motion for a preliminary injunction.

2/29/08 - Court issued Order Denying Motion For Preliminary Injunction; Dissolving Permanent Injunction; and Setting Briefing and Hearing Schedule

3/5/08 - Plaintiff banks filed a notice of dismissal, without prejudice, as to all parties


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