Remember the pictures of Madonna's wedding to Sean Penn, taken from an army of helicopters hovering over her Malibu mansion? Or the snapshots of Brad Pitt in the buff on a private beach?
Images like those will be grounds for legal action under a new California law that aims to protect celebrities and others in private moments."Under this bill, the so-called `stalkerazzi' will be deterred from driving their human prey to distraction - or even death," said Gov. Pete Wilson, who signed the bill into law Wednesday.
But journalists and First Amendment law experts complain that the law, which takes effect Jan. 1, muzzles the right to gather the news.
"This is a law that addresses a non-problem," lawyer Douglas Mi-rell said. "This is a PR effort spawned by the tragedy of Princess Diana's death but addresses no legitimate issue that is not now in existing law."
Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, said "constructive trespass" may end up pre-vent-ing coverage of newsworthy people.
The bill was introduced after Diana was killed last year in a Paris car crash as she was followed by paparazzi, or celebrity photographers. Her driver was legally drunk at the time of the crash.
Celebrity outrage over the circumstances of Diana's death fueled support for the legislation. Stars such as Madonna and Elizabeth Taylor called for boycotts of supermarket tabloids and new laws on libel and privacy.
The law forbids "constructive trespass," the use of technologically-advanced devices to watch or eavesdrop on someone in a situation where they have "a reasonable expectation of privacy."
The bill defines invasion of privacy as trespassing with the intent to capture audio or video images of a celebrity or crime victim engaging in a personal or family activity.
It extends trespassing to electronic devices. And it allows the celebrity or crime victim to recover damages from the paparazzi and people who employ them.
Violators must pay triple the amount of any actual damages plus surrender any proceeds from the sale of material obtained through an intrusion on privacy.