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A new bid to restrict paparazzi

July 14, 2009 |  6:44 pm

     Told that paparazzi are jeopardizing safety and privacy, California lawmakers today advanced a proposal that would allow steep fines for illegally taking and distributing photos and videos of celebrities and others who are engaged in ``personal or familial activity.’’
     A state Senate committee approved the bill by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), meant to keep photographers from sneaking onto celebrity estates and from violating traffic laws in pursuit of pictures.
     “Out-of-control paparazzi are an increasing threat – not only to the celebrities they stalk but to the public at large if they happen to get in their way,’’ Bass said. ``As long as this reckless behavior remains lucrative, the current laws on the books won’t be enough to prevent it.‘’
     The measure, AB 524, would allow government prosecutors and private individuals to seek civil fines of up to $50,000 against any person who takes and sells images of people engaged in personal or familial activity if the violator knows the images were unlawfully obtained and if money is exchanged. Individuals, but not government prosecutors, could also sue those who broadcast illegally obtained images.
     The measure was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, California Broadcasters Assn., and California Newspaper Publishers Assn., which argue that it would violate the 1st Amendment rights of the press.
     The measure has been approved by the state Assembly, but still requires a vote by the full Senate.

Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento