Yesterday, June 29, 2022, was National Camera Day

National Camera Day is a holiday that commemorates not only the camera but also the pictures it produces. The camera is a tool that’s been around since the 11th century—if the camera obscura is counted as the earliest incarnation of this device. It’s a tool that’s evolved over the past few centuries to become the powerful tool that it is.

It got me to thinking about the recording laws here in New York State.  Can you use your camera to record someone without their permission?  We see all of these videos of random, seemingly unknowing people going viral for doing all types of weird and crazy things.  But, can you get in legal trouble if you post a video of someone being a 'Karen' (Karens love to say that they don't give permission to you recording them) or even dancing in a parking lot, without their permission?

Photo by Patrick on Unsplash
Photo by Patrick on Unsplash

Can You Legally Record Someone With Your Camera In New York Without Their Permission?

According to Legal Beagle, the short answer is 'yes',

New York State law gives people a right to record via audio or video on their own property, at their place of work and in public spaces. However, they must consider the privacy of others when doing so. This right does not extend to dressing rooms, bathrooms or other places that are deemed private.

According to N.Y. Penal Law § 250.45,

A person is guilty of unlawful surveillance in the second degree when:


For his or her own, or another person's amusement, entertainment, or profit, or for the purpose of degrading or abusing a person, he or she intentionally uses or installs, or permits the utilization or installation of an imaging device to surreptitiously view, broadcast or record a person dressing or undressing or the sexual or other intimate parts of such person at a place and time when such person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, without such person's knowledge or consent.

There are more instances when video recording becomes illegal. You can see them here.

The law applies to recording a person in public, at work, or in private. A person's backyard may be considered a place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. In 2017, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Backyard Surveillance Law,

Any owner or tenant of residential real property shall have a private right of action for damages against any person who installs or affixes a video imaging device on property adjoining such residential real property for the purpose of video taping or taking moving digital images of the recreational activities which occur in the backyard of the residential real property without the written consent thereto of such owner and/or tenant with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person, or with intent to threaten the person or property of another person.


Photo by Spenser H on Unsplash
Photo by Spenser H on Unsplash

Is It Legal To Record The Police In NY?

New Yorkers can legally record the police. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the 'Right to Monitor Act' into law in 2020,

A person not under arrest or in the custody of a law enforcement official has the right to record law enforcement activity and to maintain custody and control of that recording and of any property or instruments used by that person to record law enforcement activities, provided, however, that a person in custody or under arrest does not, by that status alone, forfeit the right to have any such recordings, property and equipment maintained and returned to him or her.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Can Your Airbnb Host Legally Put Cameras In Their Rental Unit in NY?

In the wake of Airbnb rentals, many hosts place video cameras around their properties, but is that legal? Security cameras are legal, as long as there is a notice posted that the owner of the property has placed those cameras around to record or it is immediately visible. However, there is an expectation, legally speaking, that cameras will not be placed where privacy is expected, like in a bedroom for instance.

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