Q&A: Can Meetings Be Recorded?

Q Are there any restrictions or rules that would permit videotaping of condo board  meetings? Is it legal? If taping is permissible, do the parties in the room  being taped have to be told of it beforehand?  

 —Keeping it Confidential  

A “The question of whether or not an association’s meetings may be videotaped implicates several provisions of statutory and  common law,” explains attorney Gary Daddario of the law firm of Perkins & Anctil in Westford, MA. “Before analyzing the law, I provide my standard recommendation, which is to  remember to undertake a careful reading of the applicable provisions of the  association’s constituent documents. In addition to the necessity of complying with applicable law, a member of a  condominium unit owner organization must also comply with any provisions on  this subject that are contained in the association’s constituent documents.  

 “Under Massachusetts law, the video and audio portions of recording are treated  differently. Video recording implicates M.G.L. c. 214, §1B, which states that ‘[a] person shall have a right against unreasonable, substantial or serious  interference with his privacy.’ The language of the statute has been interpreted as requiring the Plaintiff to  show that the invasion was both unreasonable and substantial or serious. Schlesinger v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 490 Mass. 514, 517-519, 567 N.E.2d 912 (1991); O’Connor v. Police Commissioner of Boston, 408 Mass. 324, 330, 557 N.E.2d 1146  (1990). Analysis typically focuses on whether or not an individual has a reasonable  expectation of privacy at the time and place in question. A condominium is a  private organization and may create and enforce its own rules regarding such  matters as the recordings of meetings. In the absence of such guidance,  although the organization is private, condominium meetings typically occur in  public places or common areas. Therefore, the reasonable expectation of privacy  may be questioned. However, a recording solely of video of a meeting is likely  to possess little value absent audio.  

 “The response regarding audio recording is somewhat clearer. Audio recording  implicates the Massachusetts Wiretapping Statute (M.G.L. c. 272, §99). The statute defines “oral communication” as ‘speech, except such speech as is transmitted over public air waves by radio or  similar device.’ The Statute also prohibits the interception of oral communications. ‘Interception’ is defined as meaning ‘to secretly hear, secretly record, or aid another to secretly hear or record the  contents of any wire or oral communication….’ However, it is important to note that our courts have defined “secretly” rather broadly. The United Stated First Circuit Court of Appeals held, in Gilday v. Dubois, 124  F.3d 277, 289 (1997) that a secretive interception occurs ‘unless both parties…had actual knowledge….’ Four years later, in Commonwealth v. Hyde, 434 Mass. 594, 599 (2001), the  Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reiterated the point, holding that the  Statute prohibits ‘secret’ recordings made without the target’s ‘permission or knowledge.’ Since permission or knowledge is required to record audio, it appears that audio  recording of a condominium association meeting would require the participants’ consent. Practically speaking, absent consent, once provided with knowledge of the  recording, parties could elect not to speak and meetings could be cancelled or  rescheduled.  

 “From a practical perspective, there is also a question as to whether there is  any benefit to attempting to record meetings absent consent. If there is no controversy associated with the meeting, then one’s presence and ability to take notes would appear sufficient for documenting the  event. To the extent that there is controversy associated with the meeting,  attempts to force recording based on knowledge without consent (if such  attempts do not result in cancellation) would most likely serve to exacerbate  the dispute between the feuding factions without even touching on the true  substance of the matter.”      n



  • Your question seems to relate "closed" meetings. What about "open" meetings where owners are notified and encouraged to attend? Does this automatically become like a Town Meeting?