World thinks twice about photographers

Signs that society is rethinking how to perceive its most famous freelance photographers have caused political and media players to seize on the momentum of change.

Officials in Los Angeles say a new law may give celebrity targets of the paparazzi, many of whom freelance, “a 20-yard personal safety bubble” from their prying lenses.

Thought up by Republican Councilman Denis Zine, the so-called ‘Britney law’ is designed to protect “public safety” as stars, like Britney Spears, get snapped around the city.

It would also require photographers to be licensed; significant because these would be forfeited – as would any profits from their pictures - if the snappers violate the 20-yard zone.

The proposal has come about after the latest psychiatric scare for Ms Spears saw police cars and helicopters encircle her, as she tried to flee a crowd of 60 pursuing photographers.

“The straw that broke the camel's back is the $24,000 we spent to escort an LA City ambulance to the hospital,” Mr Zine told Radar, a political magazine .

He added he’s not seeking to infringe “upon the right to take a picture” and his proposal isn’t an attempt to single out celebrities for special protection.

It is, however, aimed at helping police tackle the paparazzi scrum: “I'm concerned about the impact they have on the general public,” said Zine, a reserve city cop and ex-LAPD officer.

The plan to legislate against maverick photographers, California already has the ‘anti-stalkerazzi’ laws, has not gone unnoticed by the media outlets that publish their photos.

Gossip site Holy Moly yesterday declared it would no longer run photos of stars being chased or in “distress”, while it will also reject photos of them with their children.

A statement on its website even vows not to publish a picture of a star when they are shown “not on duty” – presumably when they are not doing what makes them a celebrity.

However those who ogle the rich and famous need not fear: photos of stars at premieres or launches and “idiots who go to places like The Ivy” will still be uploaded.

So why the sudden change of heart? “Over the past couple of weeks there has been a definite change in the perception of paparazzi pictures around the world,” the site said.

“Holy Moly has been fairly vocal in its criticism of the pack of LA photographers who are to all intents and purposes following a mentally ill woman around all day.”

The site also said it had received feedback from its audience who “quite rightly,” were questioning the outlet’s own ethics for posting pictures of the troubled singer.

The most visited Hollywood gossip site – Perez Hilton – last night displayed more than 250 comments under a photo of Ms Spears standing ‘off-duty’ with her mother in a LA department store.

“Leave her alone now,” one person wrote on the site, presumably hoping to prick the conscience of the paparazzi. “It’s hardly salacious being out shopping with mummy, is it?”


26th February 2008

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