A new law designed to clamp down on paparazzi in Hollywood will not stop them chasing celebrities, claim photographers in California.

The new state law ? expected to take effect on 1 January 2006 – is designed to create stricter penalties for photographers who physically invade the privacy of those they are attempting to photograph or who commit assault in the pursuit of photographs.

The bill – signed into law recently by California governor and former Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger ? also makes photographers liable for civil damages and loss of profit from the sale of pictures taken in such situations, according to the Screen Actors Guild, a group which lobbied for the anti-paparazzi bill to be pushed through. Publications that solicit such photos can also be held liable, say press reports.

The Screen Actors Guild has hailed the incoming law as a victory for actors ?who have been terrorised by unprofessional paparazzi?.

However, commenting on the new legislation Frank Griffin, a partner at Hollywood photo agency Bauer-Griffin told Bloomberg News: ?It?s a joke? If the market says I?m going to pay you $1,000 for a photograph, you?re going to get a lot of renegades out there.?

The law comes in the wake of a string of clashes involving celebrities and the paparazzi. The latest involved actor Tom Cruise (pictured) whose bodyguard is reported to have got into an altercation with a photographer outside the Scientology Celebrity Center in Los Angeles last week. During the summer actress Scarlet Johansson claimed she had hit another car while struggling to evade a group of paparazzi.

US officials fear an incident similar to the one in which Princess Diana died in Paris in 1997. (see AP web news 27 September). Her car had been pursued by photographers, though a French investigation blamed the crash on driver Henri Paul who was found to have been drinking before driving at high speed.

Picture credit: IPC Images