The charge for video-recording a fight depends on the situation and the state in which the video was made. Most video recordings on public property are legal, but recording on private property has more legal guidelines. In most states, recording a fight on private property can lead to a misdemeanor charge, but laws vary. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), a privacy violation is a felony in Maine.
Public and Private
Legally, a "private place" is one where those present can expect to be safe from any recording without consent. This definition includes places such as homes and hotel rooms. In public places, most video recording is legal because, in the courts' view, it isn't reasonable that things done openly should be considered private.
According to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Katz v. United States in 1967, "Generally, a person walking along a public sidewalk or standing in a public park cannot expect that his activity will be immune from the public eye or from observation by the police."
Open Field Doctrine
In public places, video recording is usually legal because being in public means you subtly acknowledge some of your privacy is compromised. The Open Field Doctrine, a boundary used primarily in search-and-seizure cases, certifies that privacy can't be ensured in the public eye. According to USLegal.com, this doctrine is defined as establishing that there is no right to privacy on an open field.
Even in public places, you need to get consent to videotape someone. If a camera is in plain view, consent can be presumed because the people being filmed are aware they're being recorded. This means those choosing to act in an irrational manner before the camera are doing so at their own discretion.
Some states require you to announce when you're filming other people. If you don't take the precautions outlined in state law, your recording can be viewed as unauthorized.
States are divided into one-party and two-party consent states. Although these provisions stem from telephone law, they signify that any recorded audio requires one or two people's consent. There is also the possibility of copyright violation, as copyright law specifies that the use of a person's image alone may be illegal. It's best to look up the video-recording laws for your state or check with local attorneys.
Brian Jackson is a professional writer who has freelanced since 2008. He initially began working for smaller clients and has recently expanded to working for larger publishers. His writing specialties are music, movies, software, virus protection, Internet use, video games and news.