Legal

Legal

Legal battles over the right to privacy have ensued since the 1st Amendment was enacted in 1791 and undoubtedly will continue being waged as our country further grows and advances. New issues present themselves which ultimately set new legal precedents and become part of our nation's set of laws. 

The purpose of The Paprazzi Reform Initiative is NOT to limit Freedom of Speech or the Press, but to restore some semblance of the inalienable right to privacy to everyone. 

The 1st Amendment was written without limitations for the sole purpose of laying down a foundation of law that could then be amended and adjusted as the nation grew and advanced in ways the Founding Fathers could not predict. Surely they could not have dreamed of the day when a horde of people would be literally chasing down American citizens in order to capture their image for the purposes of using it for financial gain. These learned men knew that the judicial and legislative branches of the new government would have to sort out the legal limits of the revolutionary ideas they codified in the 1st Amendment. A prime example of this adjustment to the freedom of speech is that one cannot yell "fire" (when there is no fire) in a crowded theatre and cause casualties and be expected to be protected by the 1st Amendment. 

The legal system itself is a reactive instrument of social adjustment. New laws are enacted and precedents set usually after an incident or situation arises that is deemed too destructive to society. Sometimes it takes decades of damage before our laws catch up with the needed change. 

Time magazine tobacco settlement cover.jpg© TIME Inc This occurred with the tobacco industry which made billions from selling cigarettes to consumers before the legal system finally caught up and severely fined them and limited their ability to do business. Today, many cities have banned smoking in public places, something that would have seemed impossible only a decade ago. It took almost 100 years after the first commercial cigarette machine was invented before society decided the freedom to smoke cigarettes was too damaging to society and needed to be limited. 

This preamble is presented here in an attempt to allay the fears of those who vigorously fight any new law or precedent that in any way appears to limit the 1st Amendment. Slight adjustments to our legal right to these freedoms have been occurring for over 200 years as new situations arise that cause injury to this nation's citizens. Small adjustments were expected by the Founding Fathers and those that have been adjudicated have not, to date, curtailed the wide spread freedoms the Amendment protects. 

As it is understood that the Freedom of the Press and Speech are hotly contested issues, and rightly so, we welcome all comments, thoughts, ideas and input regarding the following proposed points of action toward the reform of the paparazzi industry. 

1. OWNERSHIP OF PERSONAL LIKENESS: The only reason a paparazzo would camp out in a tree in frigid weather for days at a time to capture one picture of a celebrity with her newborn baby is for money paid out by media outlets. The media outlets get their money from advertisers and the advertisers get their money from consumers. It is commonly argued by the media that the voracious appetite of the public for celebrity photos is what drives the expanding tabloid and paparazzi industry so the public are to blame. This argument has been used before in the defense of other destructive products and practices and in the end, to the courts, the rights and safety of the citizens are what matter. 

KobeBryant nike ad.jpgUltimately, one way to prevent the paparazzi from hounding people who wish to be left alone is to pass new legislation, or get legal precedent set, that grants all persons the legal right to how and where his or her likeness can be used. This restriction already exists in commercial law - the right to use someone's likeness for commercial purposes must be granted by that individual.  Nike could not use Kobe Bryant's picture in a shoe commercial without his permission. If Nike failed to do this, Mr. Bryant could get recourse via the court system. This has long been established.   

In a similar manner, when a tabloid prints a picture of Mr. Bryant on the front cover of their publication, especially a picture no one has seen before (which usually means in some unflattering light), with a "news" story about him, the publication sells like mad. The tabloids contend they have the right to do this under the Freedom of the Press.  This is where the legal quagmire begins - what is the definition of "news"?  The courts have protected the gathering and printing of "news worthy" information about private citizens as long as it has social value and doesn't cause a reasonable intrusion on the privacy of the individual.   Almost all paparazzi photographs and video are of high-profile people doing very mundane, everyday activities - eating, walking, driving, visiting their doctor, etc.  Photos documenting these normal, every-day actions hardly seem newsworthy.  

Star mag cover.jpg© Star Magazine Another way to look at this is utilizing commercial law.  As stated above, organizations can not print or broadcast an image of someone without their consent when done for commercial purposes (like an advertisement).  Similarly, tabloids print photos of well-known individuals in their magazines in order to sell them.  The photos sell the magazines.  Without the photos, with just the news story, sales would be dramatically lower.  And this is the difference between a legitimate news publication and the tabloids.  People buy the former for news and the latter for pictures.   In the end, the tabloids use the personal likenesses of individuals for monetary gain. 

A law or legal precedent set that allows people the right to choose how or where their likeness is used (when it is used by any type of commercial, non-news, organization) would solve the paparazzi problem. Those that wanted their photos in the tabloid press would grant permission for them to be used.  Those who didn't, would have that right as well. 

2. All vehicles must have a license plate: A simple law but one with bite. It is common when people purchase a new car to drive around without plates for a month or two.  The problem is that paparazzi regularly drive vehicles with no plates and when they break the law using their vehicles (like running red lights or causing an accident) there is no way for anyone to track the perpetrators down - without a plate on their cars, the paparazzi know they are virtually invisible.  A new law requiring every vehicle to have a license plate, even new cars being driven off the lot, would help identify and bring to justice any paparazzi breaking the law.

3. Enforce current laws: There are many laws already in place that if enforced could go a long way toward stopping some of the more aggressive and dangerous aspects of the paparazzi industry.

  • Stalking: The stalking laws can apply to a very persistent individual or group of paparazzi. One Los Angeles prosecutor has successful prosecuted over 1000 stalker cases. You can read more about her HERE.
  • Right to Privacy and Libel cases: Current law does not allow photos to be taken of a private citizen in certain "private" situations and places. It also does not allow injurious false information to be published.
  • Trespassing: Paparazzi can not interfere with a business or obstruct or intimidate their customers. The owner of the business can request the paparazzi leave and if they don't, they can be arrested for trespassing.  
    Paparazzi mug shots.jpgCalifornia Penal Code 602.1 states: "Any person who intentionally interferes with any lawful business or occupation carried on by the owner or agent of a business establishment open to the public, by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business, or their customers, and who refuses to leave the premises of the business establishment after being requested to leave by the owner or the owners agent, or by a peace officer acting at the request of the owner or owner’s agent, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 90 days, or by a fine of up to four hundred dollars ($400), or by both that imprisonment and fine."
  • Blocking Passage: It is illegal to block a public sidewalk per Los Angeles Municipal Code 48.18(a). As well, if someone is blocked in an area and not allowed to leave, those responsible could be charged with false imprisonment. 
  • Battery: This is defined as "a crime consisting of physical contact that is intended to harm someone."  Accidentally hitting someone, no matter the injury, is not battery.  However, some paparazzi have been accused of intentionally causing someone to fall or get hit by a camera - these may be battery and charges may be pressed.  
  • Breaking the law while driving:  There are an extensive number of vehicle related laws currently on the books that can be enforced to help solve paparazzi-related issues (like car chases).  Click HERE for a list of these California laws.  

4.  Creating new laws:  See the newest paparazzi-reform laws HERE

WHAT TO DO IF YOU WITNESS PAPARAZZI BREAKING THE LAW:  First, call 911.  Tell them what exactly is happening and that you need assistance.  Next, if you can do so safely, capture the paparazzi in the act of breaking the law on film and send it to us to post on this website.  Doing this will 1) educate the public regarding the unlawful acts perpetrated by the paparazzi and 2) potentially act as a deterrent as most people don't want the world to know they are criminals.  Make sure you capture any license places and faces for possible follow-up by law enforcement officials.  To upload video, click HERE