Laws on Filming People in Public in New York City

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Laws on Filming People in Public in New York City

Knowing whether it’s legal for you to film someone in public when in New York city is important. In fact, understanding the regulations and laws on filming people in public in New York City with or without their consent is important for filmmakers and for those generally interested in filming in NYC. Because regulations differ, and because there are no specific rights to privacy within the United States Constitution, some people and some jurisdictions define an “invasion of privacy” differently than others.

Here’s what you need to know:

New York Recording Laws & Statutes

There is no specific state statute in New York that bans recording in public. This means that if you record someone in public there is a strong chance that it will be legal. However, audio recording is different from video recording.

In fact, there is a New York State statute under Penal Law Section 250 that is specific to New York’s Wiretapping Act which can actually come into play when filming and capturing audio in conjunction with the video.

Violating the Wiretapping Act is considered a Felony and is punishable by jail time so it’s important to consider the method of filming and what you’re capturing to ensure you don’t get yourself into trouble.

The law requires that at least one individual that is being recorded has provided consent. This is called the one-party consent state which is exactly what New York is.

How to Bypass the Law

So, if filming people in public in New York City is only legal sometimes and capturing sound is illegal unless you’ve got consent, what’s a filmmaker to do?

You’ve got to get written, signed, consent from those that you capture on film. This is VERY important! Without consent, including someone that you have filmed in NYC in a movie or film can get you into a lot of trouble and you may not be able to legally show your film.

Fortunately, most filmmakers and production studios like Beverly Boy Productions have their own consent forms that legally provide them with the proper consent from those they film and they are smart enough to get them signed before, during, or immediately after the production takes place. 

So, if you’re filmmaking in NYC, make sure you’ve done your homework and that you have plenty of consent forms on deck ready to be signed.

Bring them to everyone and anyone that is filmed during your shoot and make sure they are signed, properly documented, and saved.

Even if you’re not sure a clip or item will be used, get the consent form signed and keep it — just in case because you never know when filming people in public in New York City is going to result in you needing proof that you got proper consent first!