California bill allows anti-paparazzi suits against third parties

Amanda Becker | Newsgathering | Quicklink | October 13, 2009

Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed an amendment to California's anti-paparazzi law that will make it easier to sue media organizations that publish improperly obtained photographs, the Associated Press reports.

The amendment to the 11-year-law, which made it illegal for photographers to trespass, both physically and constructively, with the intention of photographing celebrities engaged in personal and familial activities in a "manner that is offensive to a reasonable person" -- now allows plaintiffs to file suit against any media organization that sells, transmits or publishes an image knowing it was obtained through such illegal trespass.

Though it is nearly impossible to bring a successful case against a paparazzi under the old law, media advocates worry its expansion to include third-party media outlets could have a chilling effect on news gathering.

"Nobody is ever going to be able to successfully prosecute one of these actions," said Tom Newton, general counsel at the California Newspaper Publishers Association. "Nevertheless, the initiation of even meritless lawsuits has a chilling effect on legitimate news gatherers."

 

The amendment to the new law will take effect in January.