Paparazzi, Public Safety, Public Figures, Privacy, and The First Amendment

  1. I hope this is the right place to put this. Most of it is from a post I made in another thread, but these issues are so large, they really deserve their own thread.

    They are:

    1) Paparazzi and First Amendment and Public Safety
    2) First Amendment, public figures in public places and privacy
    We are seeing more and more incidents, and not just involving Britney, where the paparazzi activity is very definitively getting into the area of public health and safety.

    Mr Puff commented last night that unfortunately, someone will probably have to lose their life before the politicians - and even the public that creates the market for the photos - become sufficiently engaged with regard to this issue to begin addressing the question of crafting a solution that can simultaneously protect the First Amendment rights of both press and public, and the lives and health of that same press and public.
    What do you think? What's your solution?

    To the best of my knowledge, as long as she is displaying them in a public place, no.

    But your question reminds me of a recent offline conversation about the creative great lengths to which some famous names in the entertainment world have been going in order to prevent the photographers from, well, essentially getting money.

    Queen Latifa and Missy Eliot (or at least the report said it was them) were employing large beach umbrellas, and I believe it was Leonardo DiCaprio who actually had people holding up a large screen of what appeared to be black fabric panels.

    A celebrity cannot sue a photographer, whether freelance or a regular employee of a newspaper or television network - or you, for that matter, for taking their picture in a public place.

    But especially as the paparazzi culture has become more a part of the cultural fabric, and their activities and number have escalated, some have begun to make the argument that the celebrity - I'm going to use Queen Latifa just as an example, I do not know if she feels this way or not - is a product, and that she and/or any company to which she might be under contract, should be able to reserve the right to determine how and where and when and to and vial whom that product is presented.

    If Queen Latifa wants to go to a restaurant, should that constitute an automatic obligation on her part to be photographed, and to have those photos appear on TV shows and in newspapers?

    Should she be able to dictate the terms of how and where her image will appear, even if the image was obtained when she was in a public place?

    It's an interesting perspective, and I understand the reasoning, but I can't claim to agree with it.

    I am of two minds on the issue. While I am totally down with the First Amendment and free speech, and your right, either as a private individual or acting in a professional capacity, to take pictures of any and all celebrities in any public place, I am not really comfortable with the principle that anyone should essentially forfeit their right to privacy because they are famous people, public figures, etc.

    What do you think would be the best way to protect both your right to take a picture of a movie star in a public place, and the movie star's right to privacy in a public place?
  2. I don't read and comment in the celeb section that much. I am not interested in people going to get starbucks or if they are wearing underwear. I have been to several starbucks with panties in check, so I guess that is why I don't get my picture taken. I also am not interested if a D list celeb is trying to get into a club in LA or scratching their ass.

    I agreee. It's a double edged sword for celebs. Whether they are going for Starbucks or getting out of a car sans panties, the paps are ruthless...Why? Because they are literally looking for the money shot. That is why that pap is hanging out with Britney now. He has no interest in her well being, just her ability to make a fool of herself and sell the pictures of her doing so.

    Weren't the paps following Princess Di and look what happened. Nothing will stop them. Money always wins. Even when Anna Nicole died they were scrambling for a pic of her dead body.

    Then I look at the perspective of the business of show. People want fame soooooooo badly. All the "reality" shows prove that people will do anything to be on tv by any means necessary to degrade themselves. Fifteen minutes is now about an hour long on tv. As long as you get your face on tv, everythings okay. Consequences shouldn't matter anymore.

    We as a country are obsessed with disaster. It's sad but true. If a celeb dies as many people are waiting to happen to Britney, the paps will just find their next money maker.
  3. Its a symbiotic relationship between a celebrity and the paparazzi. When a celebrity is marketing something, it is their goal to be in the limelight and have their picture taken. In many cases, the paparazzi are informed by the celebrity's camp when and where to be for photo ops. As part of the public domain, a celebrity has no right in specifying when or when not to have their pictures taken. Unfortunately, this is the price to pay for being a celebrity.

    That being said, there are many successful celebrities that have been in the entertainment industry for many years that know how to comport themselves and are therefore not chased by the paps or have the images plastered on the cover of tabloids.
  4. I couldnt agree more with this:tup:
  5. Exactly. As many will acknowledge, on the one hand, they need those photographers, they need those pics on the covers of the tabloids, because they are a product, and products need marketing. And here are all these magazines, etc, essentially providing free marketing services.

    When I started thinking about this, I thought I had the answer. Just have them stand there for a minute at the door to the restaurant or club or whatever, and smile and pose and give an over the shoulder so the photographers get their pictures, and the celebrity gets the free marketing, and once that's done, they get to go into the restaurant and eat and have the same privacy the rest of us do.

    But Hubba points out the big flaw in that idea:
    And therein lies the problem. A picture of a smiling Queen Latifa, lip-glossed and perfect-haired, at the door of a popular night spot, is fine. Everybody who gets that shot will get some money.

    But if somebody can manage to get a shot of her with broccoli on her teeth, they will get more money.

    And if the photo is not of that dressed up, smiling Queen all ready for lunch at the Ivy, but of a bleary-eyed, grumpy-looking Queen Latifa in a rumpled t-shirt and sweatpants, slogging down to the corner for the coffee she didn't realize she was completely out of, they will get even more money!

    Those more-money shots will definitely get her some free marketing. But to whom does her image really belong? Who should have the final say on which pics of her go on the cover of that tabloid? Maybe she doesn't want a live-in personal assistant who will do things like go down to the corner and get some coffee. And regardless of what Stacy and Clinton may say, maybe like most of us there is no way in hell that she is going to spend an hour or two putting on makeup and fixing her hair and assembling that casual but put-together look right after she wakes up and before she has even had any coffee!

    Is forfeiture of all that part of the price of her fame, as envyme says? Obviously it is, but is it fair?

    OK, this is in no way my own opinion, but I am going to play Devil's Advocate for a minute.

    Let's say that celebrities renounce not only the right to any privacy in a public place but also renounce their right to safety. (I know that Princess Di was in France, and the First Amendment pertains to the US, I am just talking about general principles)

    But what about you and I? Do we renounce our right to safety, too?

    Suppose that you are out for dinner with your family, strolling along the sidewalk, your youngest child asleep in your arms, a celebrity arrives somewhere nearby, and suddenly all these dozens of people, many carrying large and heavy equipment, are running around like crazy, pushing and shoving each other and anybody else who happens to be there, all trying to get that photo, preferably one with some visible underpants or lack thereof, or at least broccoli teeth, the money shot, and one of them slams into another one, and a chunk of that heavy equipment flies through the air and hits the toddler in your arms in the head. You didn't see it coming, there was no time to move out of the way or even protect her head.

    Or you are in your car, another family outing, and out of nowhere come all these cars racing past you, all around you, trying to keep up with a fleeing black SUV that contains a popular celebrity, and in that mad freeway dash, one of them crashes into you, and in the blink of an eye, annoying old Aunt Mina will never knit another one of those horrendous holiday sweaters.

    In either case, somebody will probably end up "settling" with you, giving you money to pay for the lifelong care your little girl will need, Aunt Mina's final expenses, and probably a little extra, just so you will be less likely to come back for more, or tell your story on talk shows and hook up with some organization who wants to enact legislation that will do this or that.

    But in both cases, no amount of money is going to make up for your loss. Was your little girl's future, all those years Aunt Mina had left, the price that you must pay for the First Amendment?

    And how did we get to the idea that the First Amendment protects public endangerment and reckless disregard for life and property?

    And standing strong through all the bubbles and busts and uncertainty in so many markets, disaster capitalism is a favorite of the savvy investor, right up there with what your financial planner will refer to as "corrections" and "defense." You just can't go wrong. Safe.

    While disaster capitalism is a term usually employed to refer to business activities that are more appropriately discussed on less fashion-focused forums, you have done a great job of explaining it in the context of the "business of show."

    Money always wins. Business is business, and well, sometimes that means that yes, the possibility of obtaining a photograph of a famous va-jay-jay, specifically the quantity of dollars that will be remanded unto the photographer who clicks the shutter, and even more specifically, the quantity of dollars in revenue that will be generated and duly deposited into the overflowing coffers of various business entities by that photo, simply has a higher dollar value than whatever the future of your baby might have been, a higher dollar value than Aunt Mina's life.

    Just to play Devil's Advocate again, and again to make plain that this does NOT reflect my own view, but just for the sake of argument, how about if we declare that your baby girl and old Aunt Mina the Querulous and Shrill, to be Heroes of the First Amendment, we will honor the sacrifice they made to protect our Way of Life. Hey, as a marketing strategy, it's got a track record...

    I don't pretend to have any easy answers. I am, remember, a Free Speech extremist, so I am a solid and card-carrying member of Team First Amendment.

    But there has to be a way that we the people can somehow empower the First Amendment to stick to doing what it does best, namely protecting speech and expression, and yes, that includes taking pictures of famous va-jay-jays, without entering our lives and limbs, and those of our assorted baby girls and stultifying old aunts, over in the incidental expenses column.
  6. Some time ago, I visited and watched a short video of Britney Spears leaving a restaurant. Outside of said restaurant there was a large group of paparazzi waiting for the singer, and they immediately started taking pictures and shouting at Britney as soon as she came in sight. The entire scene was frightening, mostly because of the noise and the flashes going off repeatedly.
    If that is what celebrities have to endure daily, I can fully understand why they get so angry at the paparazzi.
    Anyway, that incident was comparatively tame; I've seen videos of paparazzi chasing celebrities, invading their personal space, rile them up to get some reaction, hassle bystanders and getting into fights with each other. They remind me of animal, hyaenas or sharks.
  7. I know they need each other to survive,celebs and paps,its a given. But sometimes the paps just seem to overstep the mark.
    And as human nature goes we're typically quite nosey creatures,I know I certainly am!And tradgedy,farce and misfortune seem to endlessly fascinate us.But if we stopped looking,buying,beliveing what the media fed us,what would happen then??

    I can't imagine a day in the life of a celebs shoes,can have its fantastic points if its all going your way,but what a bummer if your having a bad day,no anonymity for you!! The whole world is watching and sharing!!
    I like keeping my spots and imperfections private,and I would not like the rest of the world to pick over my cellulite with glee or play dot to dots with my spots thanks!!

    As Hubba says,its a double edged sword,thats very sharp on both sides I think? One slip and your ass is shredded.
  8. Hahahahahahaha!!:roflmfao:
  9. There's a fine line between photography and stalking and I think too many paperazzi leap over that line.
  10. I doubt you are alone in that opinion!

    But where would you draw that line - and how would you enforce it without infringing on the freedom of the press?

    When I have thought about this, that is what I can't figure out. Would you have different rules for taking photos, or asking questions to, different occupational groups?

    Because while you might not want them stalking Queen Latifa just to catch that broccoli-teeth shot, you would not want to make it so easy for the corrupt politician or crooked businessman to evade being asked about all those retirement funds, or school tax dollars!

    But if you establish different rules for movie stars, then you run into issues with equal protection under the law!
  11. Taking a picture of a celebrity walking down the street - fine (as long as you don't stick the camera directly in their face).

    Waiting on the celebrity's property / going through their garbage - NOT fine.
  12. Celebs and Cops Fight Back Against Paparazzi

    Britney Spears and Other Stars Have a New Ally as the LAPD Cracks Down on Shutterbugs

    Jan. 22, 2008

    In an irony befitting a Hollywood comedy, the paparazzi, who make a living off documenting celebrities' exploits on film, may soon have the cameras turned on them — by the cops.

    Flash-weary celebs have long fought a frustrating battle against the intrusive tactics of the paparazzi. Not a week seems to go by without at least a few YouTube videos documenting the war, including scenes of Gwyneth Paltrow's husband, Chris Martin, grabbing a photographer and pushing him down on the ground while grabbing his camera, or Icelandic pixie, Bjork, ripping the shirt off the back of a reporter.

    Last week, celebrities gained a crucial new ally — the police.

    The LAPD and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office have started to crack down on the hordes of photographers who block Hollywood traffic in their feverish efforts to get shots of Britney Spears' latest boyfriend, Jessica Alba's baby bump, or Paris Hilton's newest fender bender.

    Last Wednesday night, four photographers, who got into a high-speed chase, while tailing Spears in the city's San Fernando Valley, were arrested on suspicion of reckless driving. Their cars followed Spears' white Mercedes Benz too closely, traveling at unsafe speeds, and making unsafe lane changes, said an LAPD spokesman.

    And sheriff's deputies in West Hollywood cited a few shutterbugs, and detained a couple of them for questioning, after they stopped their cars in the middle of Melrose Avenue to shoot Alba outside a gym. "We shut down the street for 90 seconds, so she could leave, to prevent them from following her like a swarm of bees," sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore told

    The sheriff's office insists that it's not a crackdown; rather, a response to an enormous increase in complaints.

    In 2005, the West Hollywood station received about one complaint a week about paparazzi, according to Whitmore.

    "Today, we're getting multiple complaints every day. It's a huge increase. Before, we might get a call from a business, or an individual celebrity who was stuck and surrounded. Now, we get complaints from homeowners, people out getting a cup of coffee, or walking their dog, who find their lives interrupted by hordes of photographers chasing a celebrity," said Whitmore.
    And the police are giving the photographers a taste of their own medicine, aiming cameras at them. When the sheriff's office receives a complaint and comes into contact with paparazzi, officers will videotape the encounter and keep it on file, in order to resolve the complaint, or for training purposes, Whitmore added.

    Whitmore insisted that the sheriff's office has always had a zero tolerance policy when it comes to vehicle codes and traffic and loitering laws, which are often used to bust photographers.

    "We're not calling this a crackdown. We're enforcing the law," he said. "What's changed is that a component of society is growing in numbers, as well as aggressive tactics, and because of that, they're violating the law more, and we're detaining them more. Just the other day, we cited two of them for illegal registration, and one of them was cited for possession of marijuana."

    During last week's courthouse spectacle, when Spears attempted to attend a custody hearing, but drove off, complaining about the horde of photographers, an LAPD officer videotaped the scene, according to LAPD spokesman Lt. Ruben De La Torre.

    "It's kind of a risk management tool," explained De La Torre, who said that, while no one was arrested or detained, seven citations were written for photographers who received infractions for impeding traffic.

    De La Torre also denied a Los Angeles Times report that the LAPD plans to use undercover officers in restaurants and nightclubs, to catch paparazzi who break the law.

    Recently, some restaurant owners have called in the cavalry when they felt their customers' privacy was being invaded. The founder of the popular Urth Caffe called sheriff's deputies after set up a video camera across the street from the eatery's outdoor tables on Melrose Avenue.

    "The criticism is ridiculous," says's executive producer, Harvey Levin. "Every day, from 12 to 1, we have a live stream, and we go to various places. It's on public property ... Urth Caffe are the only ones who've complained."

    Although he depends on their images to fill his popular site, Levin agrees that some paparazzi have gone too far in their pursuit of their prey.

    "It's true that a lot of paparazzi have crossed the line," he said. "They've broken traffic laws and chased people. And the sheriff's department is getting serious about it. They want to make sure that when people violate those laws, they're enforced. They're just responding to complaints."
  13. Celebs and Cops (cont'd)

    One of the photographers arrested in last week's high-speed chase of Spears has worked for celebrity Web site

    In response to a request for a comment, Brandy Navarre,'s vice president, e-mailed a statement:

    "It's a sticky situation when you have law enforcement officers 'cracking down' on the media, because it's a slippery slope toward infringing on journalists' First Amendment rights."

    Referring to incidents involving Spears, Navarre said, "It is a unique situation. When every media outlet imaginable is hungry for photos and videos of her, the photographers do their best to get content. For good or for bad, the entire world seems to be focused on Britney Spears right now, and while it's easy for the rest of the media, and for the public, to criticize photographers in Los Angeles, it's the media and the public creating the demand for our pictures."

    De La Torre and Whitmore both emphasized that they are just enforcing laws already on the books.

    "This is nothing over and beyond what we normally do," said De La Torre. "Certainly, when there's a celebrity involved, they present interesting challenges for the media providing the coverage, and for law enforcement looking out for the public interest."

  14. They need to start fining the paps for putting people's lives in danger. High speed chases of Britney, for what? A run to the local 7-11 for a slurpee? makes no sense. Then she's walking around and they happen to catch a shot of her where lets just say, we knew what time of the month it was. How is that newsworthy??? Then just this week some pap was following behind Jessica Alba and stuck the camera under her skirt! She didn't notice but another pap caught it on video tape. How is that even legal??? At what point does privacy kick in?
  15. My personal philosophy is: So a famous person is out buying a carton of milk: WHO CARES?

    The sad thing is, people WANT to see celebrities buying cartons of milk.