Could Publishing Your Chatroulette Conversation Land You in the Pokey?

Even though the Chatroulette craze has pretty much jumped the shark, the legal implications for its brief but wild run may not be over for some time. The issue in question: Is it legal to record your Chatroulette conversations and publish them without the consent of the other party? For instance, just last week FBLA’s Pandora Young was sexually propositioned by Jabba the Hut on Chatroulette — a conversation which she posted online. In doing so, did FBLA violate Jaba’s privacy protection? Perhaps more relevant, did the thousands of others folks who broadcast their conversations with actual people break the law?

Neon Tommy reporter Paresh Dave spoke with a trio of experts — associate professor of law at Santa Clara University Eric Goldman; Jack Lerner, a visiting clinical assistant professor of law at the USC Gould School of Law; and Seth Stern, a First Amendment and defamation attorney for Chicago-based law firm Funkhouser, Vegosen, Liebman & Dunn — for their thoughts:

Is it legal for someone to record an Internet conversation without consent of both parties and publish it online for the public to view?

In California, consent of both parties is needed to record a private conversation. As long as the party doing the recording is in California, he or she is subject to the law.

All three experts agreed that a Chatroulette conversation would constitute a “confidential communication” that would be subject to the law.

Said Lerner, however, “If someone in Russia records a video of me, who knows what Russian law says? There’s not much you can do.”

Domestically, although the law varies from state to state, a user who video tapes or records a chat could be held liable under either the laws of his or her state or the state where the recorded party resides.

Stern mentioned that some courts have already held that those who use text chat rooms automatically consent to the recording of those conversations because both parties usually know that text-only chats can easily be printed out.

“A court might distinguish video chatting because users are less likely to realize that their chat sessions may be permanently recorded,” Stern said.

Lerner said if a user knows Chatroulette is not archiving conversations and its Terms of Service prohibit recording, then one could be held liable under California law for recording a conversation. However, Chatroulette’s Terms of Service include nothing about recording. Instead, it says that users must be 16 years old, users being offensive will be banned and Chatroulette is not responsible for what one may find on the site.

Read the rest at Neon Tommy.