Public Figures’ Privacy Rights In California

California is home to many celebrities and public figures, and the paparazzi is regularly and continually make attempts to take photos of these public individuals, or to score interviews with them. Public figures are individuals who have placed themselves in public view, such as actors and actresses, sports athletes, and politicians – many people involved in the entertainment industry are considered to be public figures. But city attorneys, authors, and average citizens who publicly advocate to influence resolution on public issues have all been considered to be public figures in California as well.

Sometimes the paparazzi crosses a line into something that feels like an invasion of the public figure’s privacy in order to capture a picture or to get a statement. But since these public figures are people of interest, and have placed themselves in the public sphere, where is the line between private and public?


Privacy Rights In California

Everyone in California, from celebrity to average Joe, is entitled to roughly the same right of privacy under the California Constitution, Article 1, Section 1. However, those individuals who are considered to be public figures tend to have a more difficult time obtaining recovery when their privacy is violated than private individuals do.


There are four causes of action for invasion of privacy tort in California that have arisen through case law, meaning through decisions made by the courts. These invasions of privacy include:

  1. Intrusion into private matters/private spaces. Public figures have little reprieve from invasions of privacy when they are out in public, but when they are in private spaces or engaged in private matters, they retain a right of privacy. Usually a public figure’s home serves as a private sanctuary where the individual can reasonably expect some privacy.
  2. Public disclosure of private facts. It is an invasion of privacy for someone to publicly disclose private facts that would be offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person concerning another where those facts are of no legitimate public concern. Facts that are not newsworthy or are not widely known may be considered private.
  3. Misappropriation of a person’s name or likeness. Sometimes also referred to as one’s right of publicity, it is an invasion of another’s privacy to misappropriate the name or likeness of another, in particular for commercial gains. This is particularly relevant to public figures whose name or image is used without permission to endorse products or services.
  4. Portraying a person in a false light. It is impermissible for an individual to portray another in a false light, i.e., portray another in a way that is highly offensive and implied to be true when it is actually false.


California law additionally provides some protections of privacy under Cal. Civil Code Section 1708.8, which are particularly relevant to the techniques used by the paparazzi to get photographs of public figures. These laws prohibit a person from entering on to the private property of another without permission for the purposes of taking a photograph or making a recording.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 at 12:08 pm and is filed under California Law, Entertainment Law, Real Property 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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