LETTER : How to beat the paparazzi

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Sir: As long as there are members of the public who are curious to peer into the private lives of public figures, there will be money to be made by those who do the peering. A ban on invasion of privacy will not work.

Our problem is one of market failure. A scarce resource, namely the private image of a public person, should not be owned by the photographer or by the publication which purchases it from him. True legal ownership should rest with the subject of the photograph. Misuse of the image without the permission of the rightful owner would be a cause of legal action against the publication and the paparazzo to recover their wrongful profits.

If such a regime had been in place before last weekend, every tabloid which published photographs of Princess Diana and Dodi on their summer holidays would have been required to pay the resulting profits to them.

I do not think that it would take too fine a legal mind to distinguish between public events, such as speeches and hospital visits, and private events, such as a ski trip with one's children or a ride in a car with a friend.


New York