Law criminalizing photography of celebrities' children passed in California

Latara Appleby | Newsgathering | News | September 26, 2013

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Tuesday that restricts photographers' right to photograph the children of celebrities. The bill goes into effect Jan. 1.

The bill, authored by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), punishes someone who intentionally harasses the child of any other person "because of that person's employment." Harassment, as outlined in the bill, means,willful conduct that "seriously alarms, annoys, torments or terrorizes" the child and that "serves no legitimate purpose. It includes "conduct occurring during the course of any actual or attempted recording" of the child's image or voice by following the child or lying in wait and without consent of the parent.

“Kids shouldn’t be tabloid fodder nor the target of ongoing harassment. SB 606 will give children, no matter who their parents are, protection from harassers who go to extremes to turn a buck," de León said in a statement on his website.

Groups including the California Broadcasters Association, California Newspaper Publishers Association and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) have criticized the bill. Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA, wrote in a letter opposing the bill that it limits First Amendment freedoms in public forums and in places where people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. He also noted that some of the terminology used such as "harassment" and "reasonable child" are vague and open to subjective interpretation.

The first offense is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine not exceeding $10,000. The punishment for a second offense includes a jail sentence of no less than five days and a fine of up to $20,000. The third offense holds a punishment of no less than 30 days spent in jail and up to a $30,000 fine.

If a photographer violates the law, the child's parent or guardian may bring a civil suit on behalf of the child. They could collect actual damages, punitive damages and injunction relief against further violations by the individual.

"As amended, SB 606 imposes penalties of alarming breadth and burden substantially more speech than is necessary to advance a government interest," Osterreicher wrote.

Actress Halle Berry testified in front of the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee voicing her support of the bill. "There is inherent danger to paparazzi’s action in regard to children,” she said.

Actress Jennifer Garner also spoke out in support of the bill. "I don't want a gang of shouting, arguing, law-breaking photographers who camp out everywhere we are, all day, every day, to continue to traumatize my kids," she told the Associated Press.

The bill defines a child as someone who is under 16 years old.

The bill also states that distribution of a child's image does not violate the law, but rather it is the act of creating it.