What are the Laws Regarding Paparazzi

Many will long remember the death of Princess Diana in 1997. She passed away as a result of a fatal car crash during a high-speed paparazzi chase. This led to a number of laws in both England and America relating to the paparazzi.

In England, any photographer who pursues Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) in the same manner as Princess Diana would face civil liability. In fact, by the time she wed Prince William, she had already won several civil cases for paparazzi privacy breaches.

Across the pond (and the continent) in California, paparazzi are legally prohibited from trespassing on private property, using telephoto lenses to survey private property, or pursuing targets in cars. However, many criticize the law as having little in the way of teeth to back up its threats of liability. As a result, supermarket tabloids and shows like TMZ remain as popular as ever, relying, in large part, on their paparazzi driven images of celebrities at their worst or most provocative.

Laws regarding public photography have always created confusing questions about the extent of privacy rights versus the First Amendment. In the United States, photographs that are taken for editorial use in a public place generally enjoy Constitutional protection under the right of free speech. This right is not without limit, though. Generally, courts have recognized that certain matters enjoy a right of privacy or are against public policy for other reasons, and not protected by the first amendment. For example:

1. Police crime scenes. Not only could the subject matter be disturbing to the families of victims, but the images could interfere with investigations and, ultimately, the right to a fair trial of anyone accused of the crime.

2. Photographs taken in public restrooms or shooting up the skirts of unsuspecting women. These photographs violate a person's right to privacy, even though taken in a public place, because there is a certain expectation of privacy even in these situations and any other ruling would lead to absurd results (like cameras in every bathroom).

3. Secured areas. Photography is not permitted in areas where matters of national security could be compromised. Consequently, photography in many government facilities is prohibited, and violations could be prosecuted as treason.

The list goes on, but as you can see, there are many instances where the otherwise nearly absolute right of free speech is contradicted in some unique way. Even editorial photographs can come under scrutiny when a caption is added if the photo caption implies something false or libelous about the person in the picture.

Similarly, one cannot misappropriate the likeness of a person, even a celebrity or politician, to promote any goods or services without permission. Doing so can create civil liability for misappropriation of likeness which can lead to injunctions, compensatory, and even punitive damages against the misappropriator.

The debate over paparazzi laws comes down to a question of free speech and public interest versus privacy rights, safety, and the right not to not be defamed. Unfortunately, this strained balancing act is likely to remain the status quo for years to come. On the one hand, while paparazzi may be dangerous or, at the least, annoying and invasive, going too far to outlaw them could have a chilling effect on the interest of a free press able to report legitimate news (even if that news is critical of public figures such as politicians). And, as long as the public hungers for images of celebrities behaving badly, it is unlikely that the paparazzi will be without a job anytime soon, or that public sentiment will swing as much as it did after Princess Diana's death such that more significant laws will be enacted to protect against out of control Paparazzi.

Provided by HG.org

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case.

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