Tyler To Testify In Privacy Hearing
Hawaii’s Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider the so-called Steven Tyler Act on Friday morning, the first time lawmakers will discuss the bill publicly.
A publicist for the former “American Idol” judge told The Associated Press on Thursday that Tyler submitted written testimony supporting the proposal, which would allow people to collect damages from someone who photographs them in an offensive way during their personal or family time.
“The paradise of Hawaii is a magnet for celebrities who just want a peaceful vacation,” Tyler said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. “As a person in the public eye, I know the paparazzi are there and we have to accept that. But when they intrude into our private space, disregard our safety and the safety of others, that crosses a serious line that shouldn’t be ignored.”
More than a dozen celebrities have submitted testimony supporting the bill, including Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Neil Diamond, Tommy Lee and the Osborne family. The letters all included the same text.
The stars say paparazzi have made simple activities like cooking with family and sunbathing elusive luxuries and the bill would give them peace of mind.
“Providing a remedy to the often-egregious acts of the paparazzi is a very notable incentive to purchase property or vacation on the islands,” the stars said. “Not only would this help the local economy, but it would also help ensure the safety of the general public, which can be threatened by crowds of cameramen or dangerous high-speed car chases.”
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he supports the intent of the bill but said it may need to be refined. The state attorney general will testify about legal concerns concerning the bill’s language.
Sen. Kalani English, from Maui, said he introduced the bill at the request of Tyler, who owns a multimillion-dollar home in Maui. More than two-thirds of the state’s senators have co-sponsored the bill.
The bill will spur celebrity tourism to the islands, boosting Hawaii’s economy, English said.
Opponents say the bill could be unconstitutional.
Laurie Temple, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said Thursday the bill would punish freedoms of expression protected by the First Amendment.
She said lawmakers should support better enforcement of current stalking laws rather than passing new legislation.
The National Press Photographers Association said the bill is “well-meaning but ill-conceived” and tramples on constitutional rights.
The New York-based organization represents numerous national media organizations with its letter, including the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press Media Editors and the American Society of News Editors.
The Motion Picture Association of America also opposes the bill.
Among other objections, the association says the bill could make it harder to police movie piracy, because there’s no exemption for law enforcement who might want to take photos or video of people they’re investigating.
The bill would open up photographers, videographers and distributors to civil lawsuits if they take, sell or disseminate photos or videos of someone during private or family moments “in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person.”
The bill doesn’t specify whether public places, like Hawaii’s beaches, would be exempt. The bill says it would apply to people who take photos from boats or anywhere else within ocean waters.
English said the bill is not intended to limit beach photos. But he said Tyler has had paparazzi hide in his bushes to take photos of him inside his house.
Photos of vacationing stars in swimsuits have long been a fixture in tabloids and celebrity magazines.
The state’s largest newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, published an editorial Thursday that called lawmakers who support the bill “star-struck.”
The newspaper said the bill might not affect only journalists.
“It could also make lawbreakers out of anyone taking photographs in public places, be it an ordinary photojournalist or someone with a camera phone,” the editorial said.