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Assembly approves limits on paparazzi

June 4, 2010 | 11:18 am

With celebrities complaining that the paparazzi are out of control, state lawmakers have moved forward with harsher penalties for those who authorities believe cross the line in photographing or videotaping high-profile people while they are involved in private and family activities.

Legislation approved by the Assembly targets people involved in invasion of privacy and "false imprisonment," including cases in which celebrities are prevented from exiting their vehicles by throngs of paparazzi.

"The entertainment industry is a linchpin of California’s economy,” said Assemblywoman Karen Bass, author of AB 2479. "People shouldn’t have to sacrifice their safety and family’s privacy just because they work in that industry."

The measure is opposed by the California Newspaper Publishers Assn. on grounds that it could violate constitutional protections of a free press.

In particular, the provision addressing "false imprisonment" could be abused by high-profile figures who don’t like intense attention from the media, said Thomas W. Newton, general counsel for the publishers group.

He cited the case of Scott Peterson, who is on death row for killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and dumping her body in San Francisco Bay. Before his arrest, Peterson was besieged by the media, which camped outside his home.

"I bet you he felt hemmed in by the press when he was under the scrutiny of law enforcement and the press," Newton said.

-- Patrick McGreevyin Sacramento