After a string of high-profile incidents in which stars tangled with aggressive photographers, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill on Friday that triples the damages celebrities can seek from paparazzi if they are assaulted during a shoot. More importantly, the bill blocks any profit photographers can make from selling shots taken during altercations with the famous.
This time, it was personal. When Schwarzenegger was an actor, he testified against two photographers who used their cars to surround his as he was picking up one of his kids from school in a 1998 incident. At one point, Schwarzenegger had suggested creating a buffer zone between paparazzi and celebrities.
The bill's author, Democratic Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez, said, "We always said that the only way we would be able to curb dangerous behavior by these paparazzi was by going after their motivation, and that is being able to make enormous, outrageous profits," according to a Reuters report. She said the measure would not only protect actors and actresses, but also innocent bystanders who might be injured in the paparazzi's often intense chase to get prized photos for celebrity magazines (see "Paparazzi Profits Could Dip If Lawmakers Get Their Way").
The law goes into effect on January 1.
Montañez's bill comes in the wake of recent incidents involving Lindsay Lohan and Scarlett Johansson — who were both involved in car crashes as a result of being chased by paparazzi (see "Scarlett Johansson Crashes Car While Fleeing Paparazzi") — as well as Reese Witherspoon, who was confronted by an aggressive photographer at a Disney theme park last month while on an outing with her children.
The California Newspaper Publishers Association, which opposed the bill, said the group was disappointed with the governor's action and that they would recommend that any journalist sued under the new law challenge its constitutionality because it treats them differently than other Californians.