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Kim and Kanye broke the Internet over Taylor Swift – did they also break the law?

🕐 3 min read

Critics were mostly pleased with Kanye West’s newest album when he released it in February – save for a lyric on the song “Famous.” He raps: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that b— famous.”

That’s Taylor Swift, of course. She publicly lambasted the reference, though West and wife Kim Kardashian maintained they informed Swift beforehand and she approved of the lyric. Kardashian even said in GQ magazine that she had video evidence of a phone call between West and Swift, in which the pop star consented to the lyric.

The Internet blew up Sunday night when Kardashian released that video on Snapchat, to prove that Swift was lying. But the video showed that Swift approved the first part of the lyric (“might have sex), as there was no mention of the second part (“I made that b— famous.”

Still, one favorite joke during Sunday night’s frenzy over the video was the idea that the “talentless” Kim K. ought to win journalism’s top prize for investigative reporting.

Unfortunately for the flamboyant couple, they violated one of the first rules you learn in journalism school: Always ask if you can record an interview.

It’s not just ethics. In most states, it’s the law. Many states prohibit recording phone conversations unless all parties consent. That’s why you often hear before connecting with a business over the phone something like, “‘This call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance.”

But Swift didn’t give consent to the call’s recording or dissemination, she said on Instagram Sunday night. That renders the call potentially illegal.

That’s because California is one of the states that bans recording phone calls and disseminating private conversations without the consent of all parties. West and Kardashian recorded the conversation in a Los Angeles-area studio, a source familiar with the incident told TMZ.

California law stipulates that recording communication can be punished by a fine up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail. Disseminating those contents could result in additional fines and jail or prison time.

Swift’s legal team knows this and threatened in February to sue West. TMZ reported Monday that Swift’s attorney sent West a letter in demanding that he “destroy all such recordings, provide us of assurance that this has been done, and also assurance that these recordings have not been previously disseminated.”

Other than hinting that a legal battle could ensue between the Kardashian-Wests and Swift, the letter indicates that anxieties over the phone call have brewed for months – ever since the release of West’s song, in fact. That means every incident that’s followed has been marred with the mutual knowledge that the recording exists.

It’s unclear why the Kardashian-Wests decided to release the video now. Kardashian said in her GQ cover story last month that she had a secret video proving Swift approved the song. Swift’s publicist responded that the conversation did occur, but the phrase “that b—” was not disclosed. Fans of West, and Swift’s detractors, were giddy when the videos were released Sunday night, seeing it as yet more proof of her lack of trustworthiness.

The incident also came at something of a zenith of Swift-hating. Just last week, she feuded with her ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris when she claimed to have helped write the artist’s latest hit, “This Is What You Came For.” Harris then tweeted that she ought to “focus on the positive aspects” of her life rather than engaging in a social media spat with him. That followed an already well-publicized, messy breakup – followed by quickly finding a new beau in English actor Tom Hiddleston.

Regardless of public opinion over Swift’s boyfriends, it appears the law is on her side when it comes to recording phone calls. The Taylor-Kanye feud may very well never end.

Video: The Kanye and Taylor Swift camps are sniping at each other once again over social media. So what’s it all about? (By Daron Taylor / The Washington Post)

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