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Legal for BarSpace to Stream Video from Bars?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 09, 2011 6:40 AM

BarSpace, a new iPhone app and website, is installing cameras in bars and nightclubs across the San Francisco Bay Area and then transmitting the video for the public to see.

CEO Mike Deignan says the product allows users to determine whether a bar is busy, who's on staff, and what the dress code is, helping them decide where to go for a night out.

This may be the case, but is streaming live video without patron consent illegal?

Aware that BarSpace raises privacy concerns, the East Bay Express reports that the company tries to install its cameras high and with a wide angle in order to lose facial detail.

However, it also found very few of the 200 plus bars partnered with the site have visible signs telling patrons they are being filmed, pointing out that only the bartenders seemed to know it was happening.

As for the legality of BarSpace's business model, it likely won't run afoul of general invasion of privacy laws, which require plaintiffs to show that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place filming occurred.

Bars and nightclubs are decidedly public.

It's possible to allege misappropriation of likeness, as BarSpace is using these images without consent to sell a product, but they appear to be blurred and with little personal detail.

The content may violate video recording laws, or provisions that make privacy an inalienable right, but these vary state by state and don't necessarily exist.

In fact, the entire question of whether BarSpace is breaking privacy laws depends on state law, meaning that, as of now, there's no right or wrong answer to the inquiry.

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