More than a dozen years after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mercedes-Benz was ambushed in Santa Monica by two rowdy paparazzi, sparking their arrests, the actor-turned-governor is having his say.
Schwarzenegger signed a new law this month to discourage paparazzi misconduct by allowing tabloid or other publishers to be sued for using images or sound recordings that they knew were obtained violently or illegally.
Targeting the money source of paparazzi is a new tack that supporters tout as a boon to public safety and opponents criticize as a blow to the free-speech right to publish truthful information, regardless how it’s collected.
“I’m positive this will wind up in court, some way or other,” said Carlton Larson, a law professor at the University of California, Davis.
The new paparazzi law comes in an era of electronic advancements that allow photos or sound bites to be transmitted instantly and available forever.
Paparazzi are driven by the prospect of big bucks — up to six-figure payoffs — for jaw-dropping images of tabloid stars from Angelina Jolie to Tom Cruise, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner.
“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,” said California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, who proposed California’s new law.
Effective Jan. 1, California’s paparazzi law will crack down on misbehavior by trying to eliminate the financial incentive to break laws, if necessary, to get an exclusive photo.
The measure will supplement existing prohibitions against trespassing, assault and invasions of privacy by swarms of paparazzi who stake out, chase or antagonize Hollywood stars.
Actress Jennifer Aniston is a sponsor of the new law. She received $550,000 in the 2003 settlement of a lawsuit against a photographer who scaled a private 8-foot-wall to take shots of her sunbathing topless in her Malibu backyard.