With the recent surge of doorbell cameras and smart home security systems, the ownership rights and liability tied to the still images and videos has quickly made their way to the forefront. Here are a few of the more prominent questions that are on many consumer minds.

Can a person captured on a doorbell camera compel the owner of the device to provide the recording?

In a nutshell—no. In a recent incident, a camera installed on the front of a commercial building captured the everyday foot traffic on a sidewalk. One day, there was a fight between two individuals and one of the individuals involved in the fight requested the recorded camera images. The owner of the business wants nothing to do with the incident, and it is presumed that the individual involved in the fight requesting the footage wishes to post the content on social media in order to embarrass the other party. Again, the individual requesting the footage has no legal claim to the captured images, but a court can issue a subpoena and compel the business owner to share the content if there is litigation.

How long does a homeowner have to preserve data captured on surveillance camera?

Camera owners are not obligated to retain the media captured by their devices for any definite period of time. The lone exception thus far is that said owners must preserve their media if they are notified of potential forthcoming litigation.

Can law enforcement compel a device owner or integrator to show them or provide a copy of the surveillance images?

Yes. Law enforcement can most certainly compel either a private homeowner or business owner or central station to produce any relevant recordings.


Who actually “owns” the images?

It all depends on who owns the device and is doing the recording. If the data is stored locally on the end users DVR, then the media belongs to the end user. However, if the data is stored off-site (such as in the ‘cloud’), then it’s a whole different ballgame. If the offsite media storage is owned by the integrator, then the integrator owns the data, but if the integrator is using a third party storage station, then the third party could potentially own the data. It all really depends on the agreement between the parties involved.

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