A paparazzo’s alleged ramming of actress Lindsay Lohan’s Mercedes-Benz in May inspired a new California law that may make the state the most restrictive on photographers, reports the Chicago Tribune. The law expands the state’s invasion-of-privacy torts to include photographers who commit assault or threaten bodily harm in taking a picture. It will give celebrities and others a specific civil code to be better able to sue photographers for their profits on the photo, plus triple damages.
What constitutes a threat under the new law is under debate. Tom Newton of the California Newspaper Publishers Association described the new law as “a radical expansion of right to privacy for celebrities.” He said, “Anyone who doesn’t want to be in the paper is going to use this law to stop news gathering. So if you’re an accused child molester or a corporate executive accused in Enron and if you have a crowd of photographers around you, who knows, you can threaten to sue them,” Newton said. Aides to State Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, who wrote the legislation with backing from the Screen Actors Guild, said the new law is narrowly written to address the excesses of stalkerazzi, such as when they try to scare celebrities in order to capture “reaction photos.” “We’ve got to put an end to the outrageous and overly dangerous behavior of the paparazzi,” Montanez said. Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said California has the most restrictive laws against photographers. “Hands down, nobody comes close,” she said.