By: M.L. Stein
One of three new legislative measures aimed at California paparazzi
Three paparazzi bills aimed at regulating the conduct of news photographers are working their way through the California legislature.
“The most immediate threat,” according to the California Newspaper Publishers Association, is one carried by Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), the one-time left-wing activist, which would create a new tort labeled “media harassment of a subject of media interest.” Scheduled for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing within a week, the measure defines harassment as repeatedly coming within 10 feet of a newsmaker to take a picture without his or her permission. The statute would subject the photographer and “whoever encourages the photographer to engage in harassment” to treble damages, CNPA general counsel Thomas Newton said in an interview. To be charged, the photographer need not have intended to harass. Publishers could be held liable for their photographers’ conduct.
However, Newton said, the bill most likely to win approval of both the Senate and Assembly is authored by Senate President John Burton (D-San Francisco). “It isn’t as drastic as Hayden’s in terms of distance from a subject but it would create a new cause of action for invasion of privacy,” Newton explained. A photographer could be charged with trespassing if a subject felt in physical jeopardy. The bill is sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild, whose members, including Alec Baldwin and Arnold Schwarzenegger, have had run-ins with paparazzi.
The third bill, introduced by Sen. Charles Calderon (D-Montebello), was called the “most ambitious” by Newton because it would broaden the limits for invasion of privacy, “radically change the libel law to enhance damages” and give celebrities the right to protect their image or likeness. It also would forbid photographing or videotaping accident victims without their permission. In the matter of privacy, Calderon’s bill would make it illegal to follow or stalk an individual for the purpose of taking a picture and even extends the definition of assault and battery in this connection.
The CNPA is opposing all three bills in cooperation with the Motion Picture Association of America, the American Civil Liberties Union and the AFL-CIO.
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