Anti-paparazzi legislation appears at city, state, federal levels
ROUNDUP–As the search for blame continues after the late-August death of Princess Diana, lawmakers around the country are riding the wave of anti-paparazzi sentiment.
Several pieces of legislation proposed by local, state and national politicians are aimed at squelching intrusive efforts of the paparazzi.
In early September, U.S. Rep. Sonny Bono (R-Calif.) joined the attack on paparazzi. Bono introduced the “Protection from Personal Intrusion Act,” which would impose fines and/or jail sentences on those who harass American citizens worldwide or other citizens inside the United States by trying too hard to photograph or interview them.
Bono defined harassment as “persistently physically following or chasing a victim, in circumstances where the victim has a reasonable expectation of privacy and has taken reasonable steps to insure that privacy.” (H.R. 2448)
A proposal introduced by California Senate Majority Leader Charles Calderon (D-Whittier), would impose a 15-foot buffer zone between photographers and their subjects upon request of the subject. The “bubble” bill, said a Calderon aide, would be “modeled after restrictions on anti-abortion picketers at clinics.” The U.S. Supreme Court held in February 1997, however, that such “floating bubbles” of protection violated the picketers’ First Amendment rights.
Calderon said in a written statement that the introduction of the bill would be “a starting point — a message to paparazzi and the tabloids who buy their photos that we will not tolerate harassment, spectacle or endangerment of people’s lives.” (S.B. 14)
Another California Senator, Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles), has also called for stricter regulations against the paparazzi.
Hayden has not yet introduced a specific proposal, but an early- September draft of the “Paparazzi Harassment Act of 1998” expressed “concern at the growth of the paparazzi phenomenon, with its emphasis on massive commercial rewards or bounties for behavior that raises questions about privacy and the public interest.”
A Hayden spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter, a daily entertainment-industry newspaper, that the bill would “crack down on the excesses of the paparazzi and bounty-hunting journalists.”
The proposal would also create a “Commission of Inquiry into Paparazzi Behavior” that would make recommendations to the state legislature regarding issues such as the impact of new technology, libel laws and privacy, the growth of tabloid journalism and possible reforms.
The Associated Press reported that California Gov. Pete Wilson would consider signing legislation limiting paparazzi harassment of celebrities. Wilson said he would reserve judgment until he saw the legislation, but that he thinks the paparazzi have been guilty on occasion of “actual boorishness.”
At the local level, a city councilwoman in Warren, Mich., proposed amending the city’s stalking ordinance to limit the “harassment and stalking” of celebrities by the media.
The proposal did not go far, however, as other members of the council questioned its functionality. One called it a “pointless and redundant” exercise, the AP reported. Sandy Billings of the Warren city clerk’s office said the proposal has since been withdrawn at the request of fellow council members. (Ordinance No. 80-501)