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The Fight for Celebrity Privacy Turns Violent


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Fed Up, Surfers Take on Paparrazi in Malibu


June 23, 2008


The paparazzi know that they can sell candid pictures of stars for a big paycheck, but often they don't realize how much it might cost them to get that perfect shot.




A photographer trying to snap shots of actor Matthew McConaughey surfing in Malibu, Calif., this weekend sparked a brawl between more than a dozen enraged surfers and several paparazzi, some of it caught on video.


"They don't want you here," a surfer yelled at a photographer just before the brawl broke out. "Nobody wants you here."


The video of the confrontations, which took place on two consecutive days, shows surfers surrounding the paparazzi and, then, when the paparazzi refused to leave, fists flying. Several photographers took punches to the face.


"Let's draw a line and we'll fight for the beach," the surfer told the photographers. "If you win, you can have the beach."


The beach brawl is the latest of several incidents involving the paparazzi in the tony beachside community that's home to a number of celebrities, according to Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley.


"We're getting major complaints of people getting put in harm's way," Conley told ABC News. "We have reports from all over Malibu that people are feeling their public safety is at risk."



Balancing Rights With Safety

To address Malibu's safety concerns, including several instances of paparazzi taking pictures in elementary schools, a First Amendment conference was held last April.


Attendees included representatives from the ACLU and Kenneth Starr, the lawyer and former judge who was the special prosecutor in the Clinton-Lewinsky case and is now the dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu.


"We're hoping to get a task force together to help us address public safety issues around schools," Conley told ABC News.


One of the main concerns for the conference was developing a way to guard against potentially dangerous situations caused by the paparazzi while at the same time balancing the freedom of the press granted by the First Amendment.


"We're dealing with the most sacred part of the Constitution," Kimberly Guilfoyle, former prosecutor in Los Angeles and host and analyst with the Fox News Channel, said in an interview with "Good Morning America." "The right to speak your minds. It gets complicated to stop it."


Guilfoyle said the creation of the task force signifies that more than just lip service is being paid to the problem.


"When they're bringing in Ken Starr, you know they mean business," Guilfoyle said.


"Someone like Kenneth Starr is going to come in as a constitutional law expert and he's going to be able to craft ordinances that will withstand legal scrutiny and within the bounds of the law."



Stars' Resentment Grows

Instead of capturing the headlines, paparazzi have been making headlines frequently since the death of Princess Diana in 1997, when several photographers failed to help the princess after a horrific car wreck in Paris that caused her death.


Some celebrities are lashing out. In January, Coldplay front man Chris Martin wrestled a camera from a photographer who taunted wife Gwyneth Paltrow as she left the hospital.


In interviews earlier this year with ABC News, actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Salma Hayek described growing anger at the photographers' boldness.


"They are parked outside of your house and they will not move for months," Hayek said. "I didn't leave my house for nearly three months."


"And these guys just, they're enjoying it," "Sex and the City" star Parker told ABC News. "I just screamed. I'm like, 'leave me alone.'"


Several lawmakers in the U.S. are now considering laws that would limit the rights of the paparazzi, similar to harsh restrictions against paparazzi found in many European countries.


Regardless of whether the First Amendment is challenged by new ordinances or not, the paparazzi may have to deal with more scuffles with a public that is losing its patience.


"I like this. There is a growing intolerance here for the paparazzi," Guilfoyle said. "Something has to be done. Enough is enough."



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