California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger knows what it's like to be blinded by the glare of the paparazzi press. Spurred by his own experience as a movie star, not to mention a series of incidents in Los Angeles in which movie and music stars have been harassed and had their privacy invaded by swarms of tabloid shooters, Schwarzenegger signed a new bill into law on Sunday that will fine paparazzi photogs for taking pictures that invade a celebrity's right to privacy, according to CNN.
The new California law makes it a crime to take and sell unauthorized photos of celebrities in "personal or familial activity," and also targets media outlets that purchase those photos, with violators facing fines of up to $50,000. The law is slated to take effect in January.
While the new law may not stop the incessant hordes of photographers who swarm around celebs as they go about their daily business, some experts have predicted that it could result in a series of lawsuits against the shooters and their media outlets that could thin the herd.
Last summer, as part of the Los Angeles Police Department's more aggressive crackdown on the practice, two paparazzi photographers were arrested for staking out Britney Spears' Hollywood home. Earlier that year, four paparazzi were arrested by the LAPD on suspicion of reckless driving after they followed Spears on a street in the San Fernando Valley, with police alleging that at least one had tried to run the singer off the road, seemingly in an attempt to get a prized picture of her in distress.
In 2005, Schwarzenegger — who once testified against two photographers who used their cars to surround him when he was picking his kids up from school in 1998, before he was governor — signed a bill that tripled damage celebrities could seek from paparazzi if they were assaulted during a shoot. That move was inspired by incidents involving Lindsay Lohan and Scarlett Johansson — who were both involved in car accidents as a result of being chased by snappers — as well as Reese Witherspoon, who was confronted by an aggressive shooter while at a Disney theme park with her children.
Facing record-low public-approval numbers, Schwarzenegger signed the paparazzi bill on the same day that he inked a bill to create a state day of recognition for slain San Francisco Supervisor and gay-rights crusader Harvey Milk, as well as a measure that gives same-sex couples legally married in other states all the rights of marriage in California.