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Property Rights and the Paparazzi


“…someone’s ‘reputation’ is not and cannot be ‘owned’ by him, since it is purely a function of the subjective feelings and attitudes held by other people. But since no one can ever truly ‘own’ the mind and attitude of another, this means that no one can literally have a property right in his ‘reputation.’ A person’s reputation fluctuates all the time, in accordance with the attitudes and opinions of the rest of the population.” (For a New Liberty, chapter 6, page 117)

We all love the entertaining photos that rest within the grocery checkout lanes. The images of overweight/underweight Hollywood stars covering their faces as a myriad of pesky photojournalists shout obscenities and snap pictures. We love these images, but sometimes we sympathize for the stars.

“Just leave him/her alone!” we bellow.

Yet, what is it that prevents them from avoiding such harassment? Or, better yet, is it harassment?

As we have alluded to above, one cannot own his image or reputation, nor can he own an actual image, a photograph, of himself. Like the mental construction of memory which is a product of one’s eyes and mind, a picture is a product of one’s camera. The question of ownership begins first with the individual, then proceeds to his labor, then the equipment via exchange, and finally to the property from which that equipment is employed. If you don’t want to be photographed, then you must remain where you are veiled from the public. You do not own the rights of another’s’ flashing camera the same way you don’t own the right to another’s gazing eyes. You may only own, or rent, the space from which they snap their pictures.

Therefore, what celebrities really need is private roads and private sidewalks from which they may oust those that take pictures. They want more privatization so that they may enjoy their privacy. If not, then their privacy is not something they truly desire.


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Jeremiah Dyke is a math teacher who hails free markets and freedom of choice.