The California Assembly today passed AB 2479 by a margin of 43-13 to impose penalties of up to $5,000, with the possibility of jail time, for paparazzi who drive recklessly and endanger celebrities and the general public. The legislation passed on the anniversary of the 1997 death of Princess Diana, who was killed in a Paris car crash as she and her boyfriend and their security were fleeing the stalkarazzi. Depending on your POV, this law which now goes to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign is either badly needed legislation to control a public menace or an unnecessary restriction on press freedom.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I believe the only way to stop outrageous behavior by the photogs is to hold responsible the editors of those magazines and websites willing to pay outrageous prices for celebrity pictures. None of this would be happening if the photos weren’t worth big bucks in newsstand sales or online traffic. Of course, the public is at fault for wanting to see the snaps or videos in the first place. But I say that if a stalkarazzi is getting too rough and tumble, then the mag or web editor who assigns or publishes those photos and footage is as much morally and legally at fault as the picture taker.

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.