California law aims to discourage paparazzi

Monday, October 3, 2005

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Paparazzi who commit assault in pursuit of celebrity
photographs could be hit with hefty civil penalties in California under a new

The law will allow victims of paparazzi assaults to file lawsuits seeking up
to three times the damages they suffered. The plaintiffs could also ask for
punitive damages and a court order requiring the photographer to give up any
income earned from the pictures involved.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill on Sept. 30. It goes into effect
Jan. 1.

Several celebrities have been involved in accidents while being pursued by
photographers. In May, actress Lindsay Lohan suffered cuts and bruises after a
photographer rammed his van into her car. The photographer faces charges of
assault with a deadly weapon.

“This bill hits the paparazzi where it hurts — the wallet,” said
Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, a Democrat, who proposed the measure. “Money is
their motivation, so taking away their money will be the solution.”

She said the bill would protect Hollywood stars as well as bystanders who
might be injured in chases involving paparazzi.

Actress Scarlett Johansson had a minor crash in August while being followed
by paparazzi, and actress Reese Witherspoon said she was chased by photographers
who she believed were trying to force her off the road in April. No charges or
injuries resulted from either case.

Schwarzenegger was involved in an incident in 1998 involving paparazzi who
used their cars to surround the then-actor's vehicle as he and his wife picked
up their child from school, boxing them in and then taking photographs.

The Reuters news agency reported that the California Newspaper Publishers
Association, which opposed the bill, was disappointed.

CNPA general counsel Tom Newton told Reuters that any journalists sued under
the new law would likely challenge it as unconstitutional because it treats them
more harshly than other Californians.

“We think it exposes people engaged in First Amendment activities to
penalties the rest of the public is not susceptible to,” Newton told Reuters.
“If it's used in a way that goes after one of my members, I suspect that
constitutional issues will be raised in their defense.”

According to the CNPA Web site, the new
law creates “a new cause of action for an 'assault committed with the intent to
capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression
of the plaintiff.'”

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