Privacy and Press Foundation: Paparazzi and Other Intruders
Robert M. O'Neil   |   1999 U. Ill. L. Rev.

In recent years the modern media have become more aggressive in gathering potentially embarrassing information about private individuals. These intrusive practices have led lawmakers to propose that the press should be held accountable for the invasion of an individual's privacy interest. In this essay, originally delivered as part of the David C. Baum lecture series at the University of Illinois College of Law, Professor O'Neil argues that the embarrassment or distress of an individual does not justify limiting the media's First Amendment freedoms to obtain or disseminate truthful information. Professor O'Neil begins by exploring the ways in which the Constitution protects the privacy of individuals. He then examines how individuals have sought redress in the courts for an invasion of their privacy interests through the disclosure of confidential information or the publication of photographic images. Professor O'Neil concludes by arguing that individuals should be limited to existing claims such as stalking, harassment, and the "false light" doctrine in combating overzealous journalism. Any additional protection for privacy interests would risk undermining First Amendment freedoms that are fundamental to American society.

* Professor of Law, University of Virginia Law School and Director, The Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. A.B. 1956, A.M. 1957, L.L.B. 1961, Harvard University.

This essay was originally presented on October 1, 1998, as the Fall 1998 lecture of the David C. Baum Memorial Lectures on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights at the University of Illinois College of Law.