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Do I need a consent to record audio of a presentation at a scientific conference in USA? I'm guessing since it is not a private conversation, it's okay to record it.

EDIT: (provided that the conference does not explicitly prohibit such recording.) This question is out of curiosity. I do not actually have clear intentions of recording talks.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I don't know the relevant laws, which may vary between U.S. states, but I wouldn't focus on the legal question. Regardless of whether you have the legal right to make a recording, you should not do so without the speaker's permission. If someone asked me, I would probably give permission, but making a recording without asking feels creepy and inappropriate. If you go around doing this in academia, it's likely to be viewed as unprofessional, and some speakers will become angry.

Even if you ask, people may wonder why you want a recording. (Are you stalking the speaker? Are you going to scrutinize the recording to try to find misstatements? Are you working on competing research and trying to document exactly what was said in your competitor's talk?) If you have a compelling reason to make a recording, it's worth explaining why. For example, perhaps it could help accommodate certain disabilities. Otherwise, you can certainly ask, but it may come across as a weird request.

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+1. It's not just the speakers but the other audience members whose consent is needed -- the recording is likely to capture questions people ask the speaker and even private conversations that happen during the talk. –  mt_ Feb 16 at 14:17
    
Yes, I was mostly asking about the legality and how it would be perceived among peers. Thank you. –  Memming Feb 16 at 16:01

In general, most large conferences in the US prohibit unauthorized audio and visual recordings of conference presentations. Smaller workshops may not explicitly do so, but you should not take this as blanket permission. As Anonymous Mathematician suggests, many people will wonder why you want to record their talk.

Now, if you have a compelling reason to want to follow up on a presentation later, the best way to do this is to contact the presenter after the session, and let her know that you'd like a copy of the presentation, if possible. This is usually preferable to making a recording, which could in principle get you into trouble if "caught."

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Yes, I am aware that some conferences explicitly prohibit recordings of any kind. I do ask for slides to the presenters. :) –  Memming Feb 16 at 15:58
    
My comments were also directed to future readers, who may or may not know that. –  aeismail Feb 16 at 16:27
    
I appreciate it. :D –  Memming Feb 16 at 17:39

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