Justin Bieber Incident Puts Paparazzi Laws Under Scrutiny

After a deadly incident involving a photographer and pop star Justin Bieber (leading to calls by the singer for new laws), a photojournalism association uses the opportunity to differentiate itself.

As a recent incident underlines, not every photographer is a paparazzo—and the National Press Photographers Association would like to make that clear.

The issue involves a major celebrity and a tragedy, but it also raises ethical questions that affect two similar professions that, NPPA says, have big differences.

First off, here’s what happened: A photographer was recently hit by a car and killed after photographing the star’s Ferrari, mistakenly thinking Bieber was in it. The car (driven by a friend of Bieber’s) was pulled over by California police for speeding; the photographer got out of his own car, crossed the boulevard to take a photo, and was struck on his way back.

Bieber released a statement lamenting the photographer’s death and urging stricter laws on paparazzi, which have since seen their fair share of free speech battles, perhaps most notably after Princess Diana’s death in 1997. Since then, a California law was passed to punish paparazzi who drive dangerously to obtain images for profit, but it was overturned on First Amendment grounds, the Los Angeles Times notes.

Spot the differences

The NPPA, in the wake of the event, pointed out an article one of its own had written about the distinction between a paparazzo and a photographer.

The group’s general counsel, Mickey Osterreicher, initially inspired by an incident involving “30 Rock” star Alec Baldwin, laid out these definitions:

Paparazzo (singular form of paparazzi): “A noun referring to a freelance photographer who specializes in images of famous people for sale to magazines and newspapers while often invading their privacy to obtain such photographs or video.”

Photojournalist: “Those dedicated to a specific aspect of journalism that captures still images and audio-visual recordings for public dissemination in print, by broadcast or online … that adhere to strong ethical guidelines ensuring honest, objective, and compelling images, created in a straightforward manner while remaining as unobtrusive as possible.”

What’s not clear is whether the laws that Bieber and other celebrities are pushing for would apply to paparazzi, photojournalists, or both—an issue that will presumably need to be sorted out by lawmakers.

How have you worked to distinguish your profession or industry when news events might cause confusion?

(photo by Adam Sundana/Flickr)

Chloe Thompson

By Chloe Thompson

Chloe Thompson is a contributing writer to Associations Now. MORE

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