There is also the question of whether or not the elevator is a public space. In New York, "the statute is designed to enforce the right to be left alone." That means citizens are protected from having their image taken in private spaces — think cameras in fitting rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms — but this protection doesn't apply in public areas. The state law in New York allows for “free dissemination of news and other matters of interest to the public”; in this case the video of Solange hitting Jay Z. The federal law also upholds this. It is Common Law that you can record anything you see in public, as long as you don't harass your subjects. This was upheld when Ron Galella, a paparazzi who built a career on photographing Jackie Onassis, was sued by her. The court found that he was allowed to photograph her in public, as long as he didn't stalk her.
The Wire consulted several lawyers to determine whether the elevator at The Standard is truly a public space, which would make the dissemination of the tape legal. Collin Schwartz, a lawyer in New York, believes that while the elevator was a public space which can be recorded, the method by which the tape was obtained is the larger issue. Several other lawyers agreed with this notion.
In this case, the original recording was actually made by The Standard Hotel: It was on their property, using their camera system, and displayed on their monitors. The person who recorded the video onto their own device was actually stealing content that belongs to The Standard. According to Schwartz, this constitutes petty larceny in the state of New York.
In a statement issued by The Standard to The Wire via email, the hotel confirmed they plan to pursue the action against the thief:
"We are shocked and disappointed that there was a clear breach of our security system and the confidentiality that we count on providing our guests. We are investigating with the utmost urgency the circumstances surrounding the situation and, as is our customary practice, will discipline and prosecute the individuals involved to our fullest capacity."
In addition to stealing the recording from The Standard, whoever did this distributed the video to TMZ, and likely made a pretty penny ($250,000, according to the New York Post) from selling the footage. Another lawyer The Wire consulted said they could face charges similar to pirating, though that would be a stretch. "Technically, they have stolen it, then sold it for profit, so it is like pirating. You basically pirated a copy."
Finally, Solange could also have a case against TMZ, though a very weak one. She could technically argue that by publishing the tape they portrayed her in a "false light" in the article, though Schwartz believes this would be difficult to uphold in court. "It would be difficult to prove it presented her in false light that was highly offensive to the reasonable person," says Schwartz, "and that it created emotional harm and distress." While the TMZ article states "Solange goes crazy," it does not imply that she is crazy, which is what the court would need to see for a false light claim. Regardless, Schwartz says "If I were [TMZ's] legal department, I would advise them not to use the word crazy for risk of false light."