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Senators introduce bill aimed at limiting paparazzi activities

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  1. Newsgathering
Senators introduce bill aimed at limiting paparazzi activities 06/01/98 WASHINGTON, D.C.--A federal bill that would make it a federal crime…

Senators introduce bill aimed at limiting paparazzi activities

06/01/98

WASHINGTON, D.C.–A federal bill that would make it a federal crime to “harass” people or trespass for the purpose of photographing or recording them for commercial gain was introduced in the Senate in late May. The bill also would prohibit the use of “a visual or auditory enhancement device” to capture images and sounds that otherwise could not be recorded without trespassing.

The Senate bill defines “harasses” as “persistently follows or chases a person in a manner that causes the person to have a reasonable fear of bodily injury, in order to [photograph or record] the person for commercial purposes.” The bill requires that violators be imprisoned for not less than 20 years if death results from such harassment and not less than five years if serious bodily injury results. In cases where no injury results, the bill specifies prison sentences of not more than one year. Fines also may be imposed in all cases, and any person “subjected to a violation” may sue “the person engaging in the violation.”

Criminal punishment and civil liability could be imposed only on the person who captures images or recordings in violation of the law. Employers and others who solicit, buy, use or sell such material may not be charged or sued.

The bill also would allow federal lawsuits against people who trespass on private property in order to obtain a photo or recording for commercial purposes. Even if the person taking the photo or making the recording never actually trespasses, he or she may still be sued if a “personal or familial activity” is captured through the use of “a visual or auditory enhancement device.” The bill defines neither “personal or familial activity” nor “enhancement device.”

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced the bill. In February, when Feinstein and Hatch joined Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) and Screen Actors Guild President Richard Masur to announce plans to introduce the legislation, Feinstein said that there was a distinction between “legitimate news gathering” and invasion of privacy.

“This legislation is not aimed at the vast majority of those in the mainstream media, but specifically at abusive, threatening behavior by some who do not respect where the line is between what is public and what is private,” she said. (S. 2103)