Case Overview

Project Veritas, an activist group known for its undercover investigations, challenged Oregon’s state law banning the audio recording of conversations without providing notice to all the people who took part in the conversation. Oregon’s law is one of the strictest in the Nation: The vast majority of states require merely the consent of the person recording. Three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down the recording ban under the First Amendment because of its gaping exceptions—one can secretly record video, or publish a written recollection of a conversation with another person, but not record audio. These exceptions mean that the State’s supposed interest in the privacy of conversations—even those held in public—could not withstand First Amendment scrutiny. Now, every sitting judge of the Ninth Circuit will rehear the case. In an amicus—or “friend of the court”—brief written by the University of Denver’s Animal Activist Legal Defense Project, FIRE joined with PETA, Animal Outlook, and a number of constitutional law professors to argue that secret recordings are essential to news gathering and a free press.