Gov. Jerry Brown approves new limits on paparazzi drones


Chris Megerian

After rejecting other limits on drone use, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday to expand privacy protections to prevent paparazzi from flying drones over private property.

The bill, AB 856, changes the definition of a “physical invasion of privacy” to include sending a drone into the airspace above someone’s land in order to make a recording or take a photo.

Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), who wrote the legislation, said the need for new rules was demonstrated at a hearing last year.

“We learned that the paparazzi have used drones for years to invade the privacy and capture pictures of public persons in their most private of activities — despite existing law,” he said in a statement.

Brown has not welcomed other attempts to place limits on drone use. Brown vetoed a broader proposal last month that would have made flying a drone above someone’s property without permission a trespassing violation.

“While well-intentioned,” Brown wrote in a veto message, the bill “could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action.”

And last weekend the governor rejected three bills that would have prohibited civilians from flying aerial drones over wildfires, schools, prisons and jails. Some of the proposals were intended to prevent interference with firefighting aircraft — a recurring problem, according to fire officials — and prevent inmates from receiving airborne contraband.

The three drone-related bills were rejected along with six others that Brown disliked because they would create new crimes.

“This multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit,” the governor wrote in a veto message.