Monday, January 07, 2013

Reckless photography, responsibility and the freedom of the press... sticky wickets, these

Lawmakers have tried to enact restrictions on photographers, most recently in 2010 when the California Legislature passed a law increasing penalties on photographers who chase their subjects in a dangerous manner while shooting for commercial gain. And it's not surprising that this latest incident brought a fresh round of calls for more laws to curb paparazzi. But the only time the 2010 law has been used against a photographer — chasing Bieber, as it happens — the charges were dismissed by a Superior Court judge who said that the statute was overly broad and violated the 1st Amendment rights of all kinds of photographers, including those shooting weddings, those covering political rallies and paparazzi. The city attorney's office is appealing that decision, which could lead to the law being overturned.

As unsavory as the paparazzi may be, it's fairly difficult to craft a law aimed at reining them in that doesn't clash with the rights of a free press as laid out in the U.S. Constitution. The best way to cope with this issue is not by passing new laws that target photojournalists but by more aggressively enforcing existing laws against driving too close, speeding, trespassing — and jaywalking. Judge Thomas Rubinson, who ruled that the 2010 law was too broad, suggested that lawmakers could have just increased the penalties for reckless driving. There's an idea that might chasten all risk-taking drivers.

I do not want legislation that tries to prevent stupidity... that never works.

You can't fix stupid.

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