Appeals court rejects First Amendment issue

Butting heads with a prior Supreme Court decision, a federal appeals court ruled that a third party who receives or broadcasts an illegally recorded telephone conversation violates the wiretapping statutes.

The majority said that the “eavesdropping statute may not itself make receiving a tape of an illegally-intercepted conversation illegal. But it does not follow that anyone who receives a copy of such a conversation has obtained it legally and has a First Amendment right to disclose it.”

Judge David B. Sentelle’s dissent argues that the decision ignores the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2001 ruling in Bartnicki v. Vopper, which found that when information is illegally intercepted, federal wiretap laws are unconstitutional when applied to a third party who legally receives the information and discloses it to the media. Full story

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