Credit Malia Zimmerman of Hawaii Reporter for breaking this one today:
State Senator Kalani English, a Maui Democrat, introduced the Steven Tyler Act, which would make it a tort to invade the privacy of celebrities.
The bill aims to “encourage celebrities to visit and reside in our State by creating a civil cause of action for the constructive invasion of privacy.” It could be used to prosecute a reporter or photographer “if the person captures or intends to capture, in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person, through any means a visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of another person while that person is engaging in a personal or familial activity with a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
According to Zimmerman’s story, 25 of the state’s senators have already signed onto the bill, which is listed as SB 465. Bill introducers include English as well as Maui Senators Roz Baker and Gil Keith-Agaran. And yes, it’s actually called “The Steven Tyler Act.” Here’s a quote from the bill text itself:
“Steven Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith for over forty years, former ‘American Idol’ judge, and world-renowned celebrity has recently purchased a home on Maui. He will now be sharing his time between Boston, Los Angeles, and his new home on Maui. In honor of Steven Tyler’s contribution to the arts in Hawai’i and throughout the world, this Act shall be known as the Steven Tyler Act.”
English’s bill brings the hammer down on “photographers and reporters seeking photographs and news stories… in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person, through any means a visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of another person while that person is engaging in a personal or familial activity with a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Hmm. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that people can photograph or film police officers on public highways and roads because they have no reasonable expectation of privacy in these public spaces. Beaches and ocean are also public, but this bill would seem to create a special class of citizen–the celebrity–who would enjoy special privacy rights even in such public spaces.
So what will all that mean in real terms if the bill passes? Lots of trouble, according to Zimmerman:
Hawaii attorney and legal blogger Robert Thomas said there are a number of problems with the legislation, and its impact could be far reaching. Even people who use a smart phone to take photos of celebrities or stars of the locally produced “Hawaii 5-0” could be held civilly liable.
It’ll be really interesting to see how far this goes.
Photo: John Scorza/Wikimedia Commons