The Legalities of a Celebrity Feud
Recently, the internet has been abuzz with the latest developments in the Taylor Swift v. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian feud. In case you aren’t up to date on celebrity gossip, here’s a quick summary: Kanye West released a song earlier this year with derogatory comments referencing Taylor Swift, but alleged that he obtained Taylor’s approval of the lyrics beforehand; Taylor denied approving the song; and last week, Kim Kardashian released a video recording of a phone call between Taylor and Kanye, where Taylor appears to have given her consent to at least some lyrics in the song.
Regardless of whether you are #TeamTaylor or #TeamKimye, the law surrounding the legality of recording a conversation without the consent of all participants is interesting. The phone call in question allegedly took place in California, and California state law requires the consent of all parties involved in order to make a recording of a conversation. Assuming that Kanye and Kim did not advise Taylor that they were recording the phone call, they may be exposed to both criminal liability, under section 632 of the California Penal Code, and civil liability, under California’s Invasion of Privacy Act as well as under tort law. If found guilty under the criminal law in California, Kanye and Kim could face up to a $2500 fine and/or one year in jail. Taylor could also file a civil law suit against Kanye and Kim for a number of reasons, including defamation, emotional distress, etc.
Would the same penalties apply in Alberta?
The Criminal Code of Canada imposes a general prohibition on recording private communications, but does provide an exception where one of the parties to the private communication consents to the recording. In R v. Goldman,  1 SCR 976, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that a recording of a private communication is lawful if one of the parties consented to it, explaining that “the consent may be express or implied and may be given by either the originator of the private communication or the intended recipient.” As such, generally speaking, Canadians can legally record their own conversations, without necessarily obtaining the other persons’ consent. However, it is illegal in Canada for an individual to record a conversation that they did not participate in.
Thus, if the infamous Taylor/Kanye phone call took place in Alberta, Kanye would not be exposed under the criminal law, as he would legally be permitted to record his own conversations. However, if Kim was the one who actually recorded the phone conversation, which may have been the case, she could be exposed under the criminal law, as she is not legally allowed to record a conversation that she did not participate in. In Alberta, Taylor would also have the option of filing a civil law suit against Kim and Kanye.