A physical, electronic or mechanical intrusion into someone's private space. This is an information-gathering, not a publication, tort. The legal wrong occurs at the time of the intrusion; no publication is necessary.
Trespass is closely related to intrusion and is often claimed simultaneously with intrusion. Trespassing can be either a criminal charge or the basis for a civil complaint.
Information obtained through intrusion:
- If no one at the news media outlet commits the intrusion, then the media outlet is not responsible, even it if receives the information from the intrusive act.
- Pearson v. Dodd (D.C. Ct of Appeals)
(1969): Four former employees of Sen. Thomas Dodd, suspected of using campaign funds to pay for living expenses, gave copies of personal letters from
the senator's office to columnists Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson.
- Dodd sued for invasion of privacy and conversion, the crime of using stolen
- Appeals court dismissed both counts. The columnist didn't steal, so he didn't commit the trespass. The court said Dodd should sue the person committing the act.
- If the reporter asks or hires the person to intrude, then the reporter is responsible because that person is an agent for the reporter.
- If the reporter knew that that intrusion had occurred but didn't direct it, then the reporter is not held liable. However, possession of classified documents would be a violation of law and could be prosecuted.
- A person is entitled to an expectation of seclusion when it is reasonable under the circumstances to expect that others will not interfere. People in public places have little expectation of privacy. People engaging in public activities must assume they might be photographed or filmed or that what they say publicly might be recorded.
- Common law generally holds that if in a public place, you can record anything
you see, except you:
- can't harass (can be persistent, but not highly intrusive or overzealous; simply being annoying is not necessarily an invasion of privacy)
- Galella v. Onassis (2nd Cir. 1973): First Amendment
doesn't give right to harass. Public figure has right to physical
- Ron Galella, a free-lance photographer who built a career on pictures
of Jackie Onassis, claimed she was a public figure.
- A federal court agreed, but said the First Amendment does not license Galella to trespass inside private buildings. "There is no constitutional right to assault,
harass, or unceasingly shadow or distress public figures."
- Court ordered him to stay a specific distance away. In 1982, a court found him in
contempt for violating the order. He promised to never take another picture
- Can't use electronic or photographic equipuipment to enhance
vision (can't use telephoto lens to see what can't see without
- You can eavesdrop in a public place; up to people in conversation
to make private.
Intrusion involves peeping, snooping, or prying into private places:
- It's a crime to open mail.
- You can go through garbage once it's on the street.
- Recording telephone conversations:
- The Federal Wiretap Statute makes it a crime for a third party to record without a court order. It doesn't matter what you do with the information.
- Participant recording is legal under the federal law. It's no more damaging than simply retelling or taking notes. However, some states require notification. NOT Oklahoma.
- Intrusion cases are the clearest on private property.
- "Courts are divided over whether a restaurant is a private place in which a diner may expect to be free from unwanted photographers and interviewers." (The Law of Public Communication, p. 175.)
- Le Mistral Inc. v. CBS (1978): Can't come in and create disturbance by taking photos.
- WCBS-TV crew was doing a story on health code violations at swank French restaurant. Video showed staff throwing out the camera crew.
- Owner sued for libel, false light, and trespass.
- Judge threw out the first two counts but upheld the trespass charge. Restaurant owner gives implied consent to come in and eat. The TV crew exceeded the consent given by owner.