Now Easier to Sue for Paparazzi Pics

An amendment to an anti-paparazzi law went into effect today in California that allows celebrities and others to sue media outlets for publishing photos of them that were taken illegally. As the LA Times reports, it:

Allows celebrities and others to sue for up to $50,000 when someone takes and sells their pictures without permission while they are engaging in “personal or familial activity,” such as taking their children to school.

The obvious problem with this law is what exactly is “personal or familial activity”? It’s so broad and impossible to define. So, taking children to school while in public would be considered a violation, but leaving a grocery store is not…or is it? Eating at an outdoor cafe in public? Shopping in public?

As intrusive or aggressive as the paparazzi can be, there is just no legitimate way to curb the practice. And enacting laws that restrict real journalistic activities sets a bad precedent. As the general counsel for The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said on their web site:

Nobody is ever going to be able to successfully prosecute one of these actions. Nevertheless, the initiation of even meritless lawsuits has a chilling effect on legitimate news gatherers.

3 Responses to “Now Easier to Sue for Paparazzi Pics”

  1. 1 Roger Krueger January 2, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    We’ve had the dangerously vague “personal and familial” prohibition for several years now. This new law just makes it possible for California to reach out and impose our standards on photos taken legally in other states but published in media available in California.

  2. 2 Nathan J Shaulis January 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    how is “celebrity” defined? it seems to me that if the definition is broad enough, then it applies to anyone, regardless of “celebrity” status. this, in conjunction with the vague “personal and familial” wording, would make it illegal for anyone to take photos of anyone else. anyone could argue that their activity, whatever it might be, is to be considered “personal and familial”, even just walking down the street in public.
    if, on the other hand, the definition of “celebrity” is narrower, then it gives celebrities extra rights not afforded to the general public.
    either way, it seems unconstitutional.

    • 3 Nathan J Shaulis January 2, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      I should correct myself: it seems that the amendment would not necessarily make the *taking* of photos illegal, but instead their *publication*. and not “illegal” so much as it would open up oneself to possible lawsuits.
      still, it worries me.

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