The price of fame
Three years ago most of the world has learned about the tragic death of Princess Diana and her companion, Dodi Al-Fayed. Many people were quick to blame the paparazzi, those free-lance photographers who specialize in celebrities. And even though it appears that high-speed driving by an intoxicated chauffeur actually led to the fatal crash, those conditions occurred only because the couple were trying to escape unwanted attention from photographic stalkers. As a result, there are renewed cries for restrictions to be placed on such activities.
At the heart of this debate is a question of whether public figures have a right to privacy. The paparazzi seem to believe that because politicians, entertainers, and professional athletes depend on publicity to further their careers, the public somehow "owns" them. This argument seems false to me: even though some people are more visible and well-known than others, they should still be able to draw a line between their professional and personal lives. Free press or not, invasion of privacy is still a violation of current law. The problem is to determine what part of a celebrity's life should be considered private.
One possible solution to this problem is to change ownership laws such that photographs belong to the subject(s) rather than just to the photographer. Under this interpretation, no picture of people could be published without the permission of at least one of those portrayed. This permission could be granted in either of two ways: explicitly, by written consent of the person or an agent; or implicitly, by participation in an event where picture-taking is allowed. (Examples of the latter: sporting events, movie premieres, open meetings of government officials.) The financial incentive for celebrity-chasing would be eliminated, but the press would still be free to publish any fact-based story without censorship. This balance between individual and public rights is one Princess Diana might well have applauded.