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The recent death of a photographer who was trailing Justin Bieber has gotten other celebrities thinking hard about paparazzi laws. On Wednesday, Neil Patrick Harris told E! News that he was trying to see both sides of the paparazzi question.
"I don't know where you begin with that without sounding like you're taking a stance one way or the other," said the How I Met Your Mother star. "I certainly think that being a public person, a celebrity people are interested in, means they're going to want to know all about you. And the minutiae of your daily life is sort of up for public consumption."
And while Harris admitted that he's watched photographers break traffic laws to get their shot, he wasn't sure that regulating them would do much good.
"I don't know where the line is. I mean if the paparazzi stopped at every red light, they'd lose the picture. But they're not the only people that run red lights. So you can't come down on them hard," he reflected.
On the other hand, said the actor, "It's trying for people who are trying to live their lives in an everyday way to be constantly accosted by not only people wanting their photo but being abrupt and derogatory in order to get a facial expression. That can't be fun. I'm thankfully not that exciting so I don't get a lot of that."
Miley Cyrus, who is one of the paparazzi's targets, also weighed in -- and said that the blame should be placed squarely on celebrity-stalking photographers.
"Hope this paparazzi/JB accident brings on some changes in '13 Paparazzi are dangerous! Wasn't Princess Di enough of a wake up call?!" she tweeted on New Year's Day. "It is unfair for anyone to put this on to Justin's conscious as well! This was bound to happen! Your mom teaches u when your a child not to play in the street! The chaos that comes with the paparazzi acting like fools makes it impossible for anyone to make safe choices."
Bieber himself is also calling for anti-paparazzi laws. "Hopefully this tragedy will finally inspire meaningful legislation and whatever other necessary steps to protect the lives and safety of celebrities, police officers, innocent public bystanders and the photographers themselves," the pop star said in a statement on Wednesday.
Seems like calling for stricter paparazzi laws is an obvious solution. But the unfortunate fact is that these laws don't make much of a difference. California actually did pass an anti-paparazzi law in 2010 (under sympathetic governor Arnold Schwarzenegger), but the first paparazzo to be charged under that law -- a photographer who, ironically, was driving recklessly while chasing after Justin Bieber -- had the charges thrown out by a judge. (The case is now being appealed.) Even in nations that have stricter laws in place, paparazzi can't be stopped; take France, for example, where those topless photos of Kate Middleton were taken.
The fact is that the reckless behavior engaged in by paparazzi is already illegal: stalking, harassment, trespassing, reckless driving and so forth. It's the enforcement of those laws that's an issue. And as long as taking photos of celebrities is a million-dollar business, there will always be photographers willing to risk jail -- or even death -- to get that career-making shot.