New California Bill Prohibits Paparazzi From Flying Drones Over Private Property

For quite some time the paparazzi in California has relied upon the use of drones – which are unmanned, aerial devices that are operated remotely by a user or operator – to capture photographs of celebrities from afar, usually by piloting the unmanned drones over the private property owned by the celebrities to capture the shot. A new California bill aims to provide celebrities with a little more privacy by prohibiting the use of drones over private property, the LATimes reports.

Drone regulation has been a high-popularized issue in the area of technology law lately, especially in California.  Not only have the paparazzi made quite a bit of use out of drones for photography purposes, but others have taken up flying the contraptions to take photos of the wildfires that have been ravaging California.  The drones have even interfered with firefighting efforts in the recent past.  There have also been problems with drones being used to transport contraband into prison environments. However, many civilians enjoy drone manipulation as a hobby, and do not use their drones to break the law.

New Bill Puts Stop to Paparazzi Invasion of Celebrities’ Privacy

The bill, AB 856, deems flying a drone onto the private property of another for the purpose of taking photographs of video to be a physical invasion of privacy that will not be tolerated.  While previous versions of the bill would have made flying a drone within 350 feet over private property without consent a trespassing violation, the final version of the bill, which will be signed by Governor Jerry Brown in the upcoming weeks, is not as extreme.

Trespass is codified in California Penal Code Section 602 et seq. and already covers a variety of very specific trespassing violations.  Adding another trespass provision for the use of drones to take pictures of someone else, particularly a celebrity, would add more provisions to the already jumbled and dense area of trespass crimes.

The governor rejected many earlier versions of the drone bill as they would have created new crimes by adding new trespassing provisions to the law along with new punishments. In addition, making drone flying for photography purposes would unduly place restraints on a burgeoning drone industry. Rather, the new bill sets out to redefine the existing law to better incorporate invasions of privacy committed with a drone camera.

What Are The Existing Laws on Invasion of Privacy?

Invasion of privacy is based in tort law, and in California case law has established four tort actions based on invasion of privacy:

1. Intrusion into private places, conversations or other matters,
2. Public disclosures of private facts,
3. Presentation of a person to the public in a false light, and
4. Appropriation of another’s image or personality.

Shulman v. Group W Productions, Inc., 18 Cal.4th 200, 214 (1998). The use of drones to take unauthorized photos of celebrities in their homes and on their personal property would be an intrusion into a private place and under California Civil Code Section 1708.8, a person is liable for physical invasion of privacy when they knowingly enter the land of another person without permission for the purpose of capturing any form of visual image of the person whose privacy is being invaded.

This bill is yet another example of how the law must catch up at times to address the legal implications a new technology presents, and it highlights the importance of obtaining proper legal advisement while navigating the complicated world of technology.

If you are working with a new technology or other product/service and do not yet fully understand the legalities and implications of your venture, it is especially important to retain an experienced business attorney for advisement on how to limit your liability and protect any intellectual property rights.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 at 1:49 pm and is filed under Business & Corporate Law, California Law, Real Property Law, Technology, Tort Law. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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