Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New California Statute Prohibits Taking More than 25 Copies of Free Newspapers to Sell or Barter Them...

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law AB 2612 that makes it a crime to take more than 25 copies of a free newspaper "to sell or barter the papers, to recycle the papers for cash or other payment, to harm a competitor or to prevent others from reading the paper."

According to the text of the bill:

"...No person shall take more than twenty-five (25) copies of the
current issue of a free or complimentary newspaper if done with the
intent to do one or more of the following:
   (1) Recycle the newspapers for cash or other payment.
   (2) Sell or barter the newspaper.
   (3) Deprive others of the opportunity to read or enjoy the
newspaper.
   (4) Harm a business competitor.
   (c) This section does not apply to the owner or operator of the
newsrack in which the copies are placed, the owner or operator of the
property on which the newsrack is placed, the publisher, the
printer, the distributor, the deliverer of the newspaper, or to any
advertiser in that issue, or to any other person who has the express
permission to do so from any of these entities.
   (d) Any newspaper publisher may provide express permission to take
more than twenty-five (25) copies of the current issue of a free or
complimentary newspaper by indicating on the newsrack or in the
newspaper itself, that people may take a greater number of copies if
they wish.
   (e) A first violation of subdivision (b) shall be an infraction
punishable by a fine not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
A second or subsequent violation shall be punishable as an infraction
or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction under this section is
punishable by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500),
imprisonment of up to 10 days in a county jail, or by both that fine
and imprisonment. The court may order community service in lieu of
the punishment otherwise provided for an infraction or misdemeanor in
the amount of 20 hours for an infraction, and 40 hours for a
misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction under this section shall not
constitute a conviction for petty theft...."

The new law takes effect January 1, 2007.

According to the Governor's office, "In Nov. 2002, a local Bay Area politician stole more than 1,000 copies of a free newspaper that did not endorse his reelection. The politician was only able to be charged with petty theft. The newspapers were removed and immediately trashed. In a separate incident in May 2002, a free college paper had several thousand copies stolen by a group that did not agree with the newspaper's editorial content. Recently in Chula Vista and the greater San Diego area, an individual removed entire bundles from news racks and transported them across the border where he sold them to recyclers in Mexico." Read the Governor's office press release about the new law here.                           

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