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Legal Hotline - Invasion of Privacy

CAUTION: Because the law is constantly evolving, it is important before relying upon any opinion on this website that you check with the hotline counsel to ascertain whether or not there has been any subsequent change or supplementation to the law since the date of the opinion.

Answers provided by NJPA's Legal Counsel.


Nov. 12, 2003

If a school bus carries video cameras, are the tapes available to the public when an incident takes place on the bus?
Probably not. Federal law prohibits school districts from releasing information about specific students. Since any such tape would permit identification of the students, the school district would probably be prohibited from releasing the tape. If the matter later results in a trial open to the public and the tapes are introduced into evidence, they would be available under the Rules of Court.

Feb. 27, 2003

May a person tape record a conversation without the permission of the other person?
If the conversation takes place entirely in New Jersey, then the consent of only one person is necessary. If the conversation is inter-state, then both persons must consent.

Oct. 17, 2002

Are there any statutes or regulations prohibiting newspapers from photographing minors at school?
A school may ban persons from school property if those persons have no school business. But if the photographer is on public property or properly attending a public event at the school, there is no prohibition on taking photographs.

Oct. 10, 2002

The newspapers obtained verbal confirmation that the parents of youths shown in a photo submitted by an independent photographer had given permission for publication of the photo. Is verbal confirmation sufficient or is the newspaper required to obtain written permission?
Written permission is always preferable but verbal confirmation is acceptable.

March 19, 1998

May an article include a quote of information contained on a person's answering machine? 
Ordinarily publication of personal information of a private citizen, wherever obtained, might subject the newspaper to an invasion of privacy action for disclosure of private facts. However, if the person has become a public figure and the message is related to a newsworthy event with which the public figure is associated such a suit is unlikely and would be defensible. In either event the best procedure is to secure the person's permission to use the information. 

The Hotline is operated by NJPA's General Counsel, Tom Cafferty of Gibbons P.C.  Cafferty has served in this capacity for more than 30 years and has extensive First Amendment and communication law expertise. The Hotline is available to all publications that are active members of the New Jersey Press Association.

To reach the Hotline:

Call (973) 596-4863 The regular hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but callers may leave a recorded message 24 hours per day on a dedicated voice-mail line. The Hotline attorneys will return all calls as soon as possible.
Fax: (973) 639-6267  
Write: NJPA Legal Hotline, c/o Gibbons P.C., One Gateway Center, Newark, NJ 07102-5310

E-mail: tcafferty@gibbonslaw.com

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New Jersey Press Association (NJPA) is a non-profit membership association formed to advance the interests of newspapers and to increase awareness in the benefits of newspaper readership. The mission of NJPA is to help newspapers remain editorially strong, financially sound and free of outside influence. We will pursue these goals in every way possible, as a service both to our members and to the people of New Jersey.

New Jersey Press Association
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Titusville, NJ 08560
Phone 609-406-0600