Paparazzi bill passes legislature, awaits governor’s approval
CALIFORNIA–A bill that would create new tort liability for news photographers who trespass to invade an individual’s privacy in a way that is offensive to a reasonable person passed both houses of the California legislature in late August and was awaiting the signature of Gov. Pete Wilson as of mid-September.
The bill, authored by California Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), was endorsed by the Screen Actors Guild and supported by a number of celebrities. It would allow individuals to recover three times the “general or special” damages awarded by a jury, and would entitle them to receive punitive damages if the invasion of privacy was done with “malice.”
The bill would also allow plaintiffs to collect for “constructive” violations of their privacy while engaged in personal or familial activities in circumstances in which they had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Constructive trespass would include the use of a “visual or auditory enhancing device, regardless of whether there is a physical trespass, if this image, sound recording, or other physical impression could not have been achieved without a trespass unless the visual or auditory enhancing device was used.”
An amended form of the original bill was sent to the governor in early September after passing the Assembly and the Senate. The bill originally passed through the Senate by a 28 to 0 vote in mid-March, but was amended by the Assembly several times between late March through late August before final approval by both houses. The amendments widened the coverage of the bill by extending liability to include the “observing” of private acts, not just the capturing of images. (S.B. 262)