Is All Publicity Good Publicity? - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Is All Publicity Good Publicity?

Is All Publicity Good Publicity?

All of us have guiltily snuck in a quick visit to sites like Perez Hilton, a pleasure that some of us freely admit to.

Why do we indulge ourselves? We may have different motives. For some, it makes us feel better about ourselves, while others get satisfaction seeing the rich and famous go out without makeup or shop in sweats. And still, some of us just need mindless distraction. Whatever the reason, our culture’s insatiable appetite to know how the rich and famous are living has created some serious privacy issues.

There are times when the celebrity/paparazzi interaction creates more fodder for the tabloids. Now, surely these “fights” are not attempts to create good publicity – but, isn’t any publicity good publicity? Some of these images and stories elicit sympathy and can make even the most celebrity news hungry people question their moral integrity. This feeling quickly turns from blaming ourselves to blaming the paparazzi for having complete disregard for celebrities’ lives, while ignoring the undeniable fact that without our hunger for these pictures there would be no paparazzi. Then, there are those times where the images are so painful that we feel bad looking, but for some reason we just can’t look away (see Britney Spears shaving her head).

Then there are those images and stories that ask whether or not the famous person plans to be photographed in order to facilitate their “comeback“. It’s not a very well kept secret that some of these stories and photos are purposely generated to create publicity for the individual(s). There is even (at least one) guide to celebrity comebacks.

Of course, laws and restrictions are necessary, and the California laws are the most restrictive on the paparazzi. However, many celebrities advocate for harsher laws and more privacy protection. These laws must be in compliance with Constitutional protections, which seem to prevent harsher laws. First Amendment advocates are of course opposed to harsher laws that will, in their opinions, limit free speech. While this battle will continue to play out in the coming years, and most likely never be fully resolved, we must consider both sides interests.

How do we rationalize celebrity advocacy for these stricter laws when there seems to be an unspoken agreement, requiring the magazines to publish the meltdown and the comeback. Is it because the tabloid world is un-relentless and nothing is sacred? Or, maybe, the risks to the celebrity’s privacy outweigh the benefits to their public lives. Will it remain the vicious cycle it has become? The paparazzi take the pictures, the magazines publish them, and we buy the magazines, propelling the featured person into the hottest thing in Hollywood.

If I were say, Britney Spears, I would take full advantage of this system and create free publicity for myself (preferably the non-head-shaving kind, and more of the barefoot-in-public-bathrooms kind). It seems that is exactly what she did with her comeback, creating her own “paparazzi style” following to aid in her “rehab” plan, which actually seems to have worked.

The courts and law enforcement need to find a balance that allows the paparazzi and the starving public to exercise their First Amendment rights, while protecting people like Madonna from physical injury and Princess Diana from death, as well as invasions of privacy.

Is there a proper legal balance that will prevent such things as “stalkerazzi”, the use of a telephoto lens to get a picture inside of someone’s bedroom and parents being exploited after their son’s death, while allowing the exercise of First Amendment rights?

The issues underlying the tabloid world require attention and thought, especially as our hunger grows and evolving technology makes it easier for us to be satiated.

Sarah Floyd