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Privacy Lawyer Update: California Signs Anti-Paparazzi Bill

By Eric Misterovich

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law Senate Bill 606, which aims to restrict the paparazzi’s ability to photograph celebrities’ children. Specifically, the new legislation outlines penalties photographers could face for taking photos or videos of a child without parental consent, and doing so in a “harassing” manner. That is, the law prohibits behavior that terrorizes the child and serves no legitimate purpose other than financial gain, such as stalking or lying in wait to get a picture. Actresses Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner, and British singer, Adele, advocated for the law, which will take effect in January 2014.

The bill specifies that conduct is in violation of the law when it “would cause a reasonable child to suffer substantial emotional distress, and actually cause the victim to suffer substantial emotional distress.” Penalties for violating the law ranges from 10 days to one year in jail, and the steep fines vary as well. A $10,000 fine for the first violation; $20,000 for the second; and up to $30,000 for a third violation. Additionally, upon violation, parents will be permitted to bring civil actions against violators for damages and legal fees.

Supporters of the bill hold that the legislation protects children from photographers who will go to extremes to get their pictures. On the opposite end, groups like The Motion Picture Association of America, claim that the bill infringes upon our Constitution’s free speech protections. However, proponents of the bill maintain that the First Amendment is not contravened as the bill targets a photographer’s conduct, and not the act of a taking a photograph. Moreover, the bill provides that “the act of transmitting, publishing, or broadcasting a recording of the image or voice of a child does not constitute commission of the offense,” and thus only those behaving aggressively or stalking would be impacted.

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