Monday, May 3, 2010

Call Recording: A Great Tool As Long as You Know the Law

From medicine and law, to journalism or sales, voice records are kept for a variety of professions, making call recording software more and more popular. Any time when you need the voice equivalent of a paper trail—documentation that someone takes responsibility for saying something official—call recording can get the job done. Call recording can also be great for keeping minutes of conference calls.

telephone call recordingBut there are very serious laws governing call recording. So before you start recording, here is a quick introduction to the legal issues surrounding call recording:

First, US Federal law does allow recording of phone calls and other electronic communications with the consent of at least one party on the call. This means you can record any phone call you participate in, even if you don’t inform the other caller. At the State level, it gets a little trickier; some states have added another layer of requirements on top of the Federal law, insisting that all parties know when a conversation is being recorded.

It is important to note that when you record a conversation, you are subject to the laws of both the state you are physically located in, and the state(s) of the other people you’re calling. For example: California prohibits recording calls from other states unless the Californians being recorded have been told. So even if you are in New York, you are subject to California law if you record calls made to a Californian.

This is the reason why most American customer service departments begin their calls with a recording that says: “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.” They say quality assurance, but they’re also keeping themselves in compliance with the recording laws of all states.

So how do you know what the law is near you? Thirty eight states and the District of Columbia permit individuals to record conversations they are having without informing the other parties, according to The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), a DC-based non-profit organization that offers free legal assistance to journalists. These laws are referred to as “one-party consent” statutes, and as long as you are one of the people having the conversation that’s being recorded, it is legal.

There are 12 states that require, under most circumstances, the consent of all parties to a conversation. Those states include: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. Warning: Sometimes these laws are inaccurately called “two-party consent” laws but all parties must consent to the recording in these states even if there are more than two.

One law that applies in all states: It is almost always illegal to record a conversation that you a) are not participating in and/or do not have consent to record, and b) could not naturally overhear.

The RCFP has a complete state-by-state guide of all call recording laws. Once you have done your due diligence and checked the call recording laws in your area, you can start enjoying the benefits of call recording software, and still sleep easy at night.

For International Regulations regarding call recording, look for a follow-up post on International Call Recording.

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