Kanye West could face criminal charges over releasing a recording of a phone call he had with Taylor Swift, according to three legal experts who spoke with Gizmodo. Not only that, but West’s wife Kim Kardashian could also face charges for publishing the recording of the phone call on her Snapchat.
Last night, Kardashian took to Snapchat to publish videos of West speaking with Swift on the phone about lyrics in West’s then upcoming song “Famous”. When the song was released, Swift objected to the lyric calling her a “bitch”. Kanye and Kim’s camp said that Swift had actually approved the lyric, and released the recordings in an effort to dispute her claim. In a tweet, Swift described the recording as having occurred “in secret”, essentially stating that it occurred without her consent.
That moment when Kanye West secretly records your phone call, then Kim posts it on the Internet. pic.twitter.com/4GJqdyykQu
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) July 18, 2016
Kanye and Kim may run into serious legal trouble for the stunt, depending on where the call took place. In California, it’s a violation of the California Wiretapping Act to record a phone call without the consent of both parties on the call. According to sources who spoke with TMZ, the call took place in California.
If all of the parties were in California when the call occurred, “it’s easier to rely on California state law, which does require that there is notice given to both parties or all parties of the call”, Stephanie Lacambra, a criminal defence attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Gizmodo. “So then at that point if Kanye and Kim were both in California and didn’t give Taylor notice, then they would be liable under the California Wiretapping Act.”
According to the experts who spoke to Gizmodo, a prosecutor could very reasonably bring charges. “Let’s put it easily, in California you’re not allowed to tape a person without their knowledge and consent,” Laurie Levenson, a professor of Law at Loyola School, told Gizmodo. “I think this might be a misdemeanour, but it may raise issues of federal law, and that may be a felony.”
Herman Schwartz, a professor of Law at American University and a wiretapping law expert, agrees with Levenson. “It would be a crime under California state law,” Schwartz said. Schwartz also agreed that a prosecutor could bring charges against Kanye West, assuming the call took place in California.
The California Attorney General is currently working to respond to a Gizmodo request about the possibility of a prosecutor bringing charges against either West or Kardashian.
“The waters are kind of muddy because it’s unclear who knew about what,” Lacambra said. “If Kim’s the one posting on her Snapchat, then she could be liable if she didn’t have consent of all the parties if she was in California or at least one of the parties if she was outside the state of California.”
West’s public relations manager did not respond to a request for comment.