But as new details emerge about the January phone call between Swift and West, which lies at the center of the tension, it now appears possible that “Kimye” violated California state law by recording the pivotal “that bitch” conversation without Swift’s approval. In most states, it’s legal to record a conversation in secret as long as you’re not eavesdropping, a policy known as one-party consent. But in California—West was in a Los Angeles recording studio at the time of the call, Swift was on vacation with her family—you need to obtain approval from all parties to the conversation before hitting the red button.
According to TMZ, Swift’s lawyers raised this issue with West in February, and she has the right to sue.
Celebrity gossip aside, the case is a reminder that digital media is complicating established laws regarding when and how it’s legal to record conversations. Recording used to involve buying specialized equipment; today, audio and video recording devices are in every pocket, thanks to smartphones. The result is that recordings of friends and family, often captured without their consent, are being uploaded to platforms like Snapchat by the millions. In states like California, many of those Snap-happy posters are potentially committing a felony.