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Posted at 12:01 AM ET, 12/ 9/2010

Know your rights: You're free to snap that celebrity photo and don't let them stop you

By The Reliable Source




Amateur photographers swarm Steven Tyler and Paul McCartney (you can just barely see the rainbow ribbon of his award here) at the Kennedy Center Honors. (Margo Shulman/Kennedy Center)


Celebrity fans: Pull out those cell phones and snap away! And don't let anyone say you can't.

The crush of people around Sir Paul McCartney at Sunday's Kennedy Center Honors dinner was non-stop; ditto for the constant flash of cell phones and BlackBerrys. Everyone wanted a photo with the press-shy former Beatle -- or just of him. "No pictures!" demanded one of the security team guarding the table, but everyone ignored him.

McCartney's team was more intimidating earlier in the day, when they toured an exhibition at the Corcoran. A member of the Dana Tai Soon Burgess dance company spotted the music legend in one of the exhibition halls and took a blurry picture from an adjoining gallery. "That's really not cool," threatened one of McCartney's handlers. "Let me have your phone."

Knowing he would erase the picture, she refused to hand it over. Later, when McCartney passed by where she was standing, the aide demanded "No pictures," but the fan snapped a few more phone shots. McCartney seemed fine with it; his handlers were clearly unhappy.

Good news, on this side of the pond anyway: the fans were right and the handlers were wrong

"The law is very clear, in the United States, that a picture of anyone -- celebrity or non-celebrity -- taken while the person is in public is absolutely not an invasion of privacy," said Don Zachary, an intellectual property lawyer in L.A. In fact, if the celebrity can be seen from a public space (even while standing on private property), the pictures are legal. "Moral of the story: Don't stand naked in the window," Zachary told us.

But Europe is the "polar opposite," he warned. Privacy laws prevent paparazzi from taking photos unless there is a compelling public interest: Which means filming Julia Roberts dropping her kids at school is okay in the US and totally off-limits overseas. Even a private citizen could technically violate the law by taking a picture in the airport, for example.

Bottom line: Never hurts to ask nicely, but a star can't object or destroy the camera here. Most paparazzi clashes end with the celebrity paying damages: it might feel good to grab the cameras, but it's not legal. So snap away, people.


By The Reliable Source  | December 9, 2010; 12:01 AM ET
 
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Comments

Unless a security guard belongs to the Secret Service, he or she has NO LEGAL RIGHT to demand your camera. Tell the guard that you know your rights and he or she cannot have your camera.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | December 9, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

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