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VIDEO | 03:15
Patt Says: Chasing Prince Harry

Patt Says: Chasing Prince Harry

Watch LA Times Today at 7 PM on Spectrum News 1 on channel 1, on Cox systems in Palos Verdes and Orange County on channel 99, and live stream on the Spectrum News App.

The word “paparazzi” came from the name of an annoying photographer in a movie by Fellini, who said the word reminded him of a buzzing mosquito.

Sixty years after that movie, the paparazzi still swarm, and they sting – and now they do it in three dimensions.

Here in L.A., we have new royal neighbors: Prince Harry the Duke of Sussex, his wife, L.A. native Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and their son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.

And they are pitching a royal fit over the paparazzi.

They’re suing for invasion of privacy after they say that several times a day, paparazzi drones have hovered as low as 20 feet above their house to take photos of them with their 14-month old baby.

Sure, California is home to a lot of celebrities, and there are laws that apply to all of us but which were likely specifically drawn with celebrities in mind.

The civil code forbids using drones to record another person without consent. And a 2015 law bans devices invading airspace above your land without permission to record or photograph “private, personal or familial activity.”

It’s not a crime, but whoever does it can be dinged for as much as 50-thousand smackers, which wouldn’t bother the paparazzi if they can get twice that amount for pictures of the Sussexes canoodling, or little Archie learning to swim.

In the army, Prince Harry was a helicopter gunner and you bet he could shoot that drone out of the sky. But here’s the paradox:

It’s only a civil offense to fly a drone over your house for pictures, but it’s a federal crime to shoot it down, because the FAA considers a drone to be an aircraft, and pretty much believes that flying over private property is fine, so long as no one gets hurt.

But whose idea of “hurt”?

The lawyers declare that they royals have been deliberately staying out of the limelight, and homebound during the COVID crisis.

The only evidence I’ve seen of them leaving Tyler Perry’s mansion, where they live, was doorbell camera images of them, wearing masks and delivering food to the needy during the COVID crisis.

Which paradoxically makes any pictures of them or their baby even more valuable.

As Harry’s mother, Diana, the princess of Wales, found out after her divorce, living in the royal system can be suffocating, but being on your own without royal protection and infrastructure can leave you dangerously exposed.

Here in LA, the Sussexes are just another celebrity couple, and regarded as paparazzi prey.

As for drones, this lawsuit by our royal neighbors might clarify and resolve some questions of drone law.

The rest of us aren’t royal, but we don’t want drones buzzing our houses, either. I suspect if Harry did shoot one down, and got haled into court, he’d be acquitted, and carried from the courtroom on the shoulders of the cheering throng