Will California's new anti-paparazzi law have any effect?
[F]ill us in on the finer points of California's new anti-paparazzi law. I am confused: does it mean no more car chases? No more shots of little kids? No more traveling in packs? (I'm not actually opposed to any of this but I'm curious to know what this does to celebrity news coverage.) -- Submitted to last week's Celebritology Live discussion
Lest you think paps were free to take upskirt shots and loiter outside Beverly Hills private schools waiting to snap celeb-spawn, know that California has attempted to rein them in before. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed an anti-paparazzi law in 2005 meant to increase the stakes for "overly-aggressive" photographers. Several high profile celebrity/paparazzi car chases that year -- and some fender benders -- were the inspiration for toughening the state's law, originally passed in 1998 after Princess Diana died in a car crash while fleeing from paparazzi.
This time, the law -- set to take effect in January 2010 -- is widening its scope to include "news" outlets who publish any "illegally obtained" photos, which could account for a big chunk of the Internet's go-to celebrity blogs and some print tabloids.
Sean Burke, founder of the Paparazzi Reform Initiative (a site that, among other things, catalogs celeb/paparazzi run-ins), says few realize how invasive the paparazzi can be, calling the atmosphere in L.A. "the Wild West." The new law, Burke says, makes a point to mention not just individuals (aka celebs), but their families -- who often find themselves targeted by aggressive paps.
The former bodyguard also hailed the new law in a blog post on his site. The laws, he writes, won't just benefit the bold name set:
The problem of intrusive photography once was a problem relatively unique to famous persons. Now, in the Internet Age, it can affect anyone who is unfortunate enough to be the subject of a photograph that is posted on a hobbyist's blog.
As expected, not everyone is ecstatic over the crackdown. Kelly Davis, managing editor of X17online.com, says the law won't change anything for the popular online celebrity photo site because they already work within the law. And, citing the increasing popularity of celeb shots -- not just for paparazzi agencies, but for more tradtiional news outlets -- Davis is careful to invoke freedom of the press protection:
"In the US, the First Amendment still protects our right as journalists to photograph or videotape a celebrity," said Davis. "At X17online, we feel certain that companies in this business, like AOL/Time Warner and Microsoft, will fight to defend our First Amendment rights."
And a response from the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press warns of possible spillover effects on legitimate news gatherers.
That's assuming the law is enforced. Though, even if it is, a few civil cases are unlikely to deter paps looking for a payday. Writes one blogger at Jezebel.com: "...as long as there's significant money to be made in the 'undignified treatment' of celebrities, paparazzi are going to be as undignified as they have to be."
| October 19, 2009; 11:02 AM ET
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