BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Steven Tyler, the outrageous rock star of Aerosmith fame, exposed his bare bottom on not just one, but two episodes of American Idol.
On February 24, 2012, when Tyler was a judge on the popular talent show, he shocked fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson when he performed a spontaneous striptease, taking off his shirt and pants and pulling down his underwear to “moon” the camera. An ABC News commentator said Tyler must have thought it was a “clothing optional night” on American Idol.
Just last week, Tyler, who is no longer a judge on American Idol, dressed in drag and pretended to be one of the contestants. After Judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Keith Urban booted him, Tyler tore off his blonde wig and tossed his fake breast implants at Jackson before pulling up his skirt and mooning them.
While he’s on stage, Tyler isn’t concerned about being captured on camera in compromising positions.
However, here in Hawaii where Tyler owns a $4.8 million beachfront home on the island of Maui, he is leading the push for more privacy, lobbying for the passage of a measure that would give celebrities, politicians and other public figures special protection against violation of their privacy from photographers, journalists and members of the public.
Senator Kalani English, D-Maui, introduced the “Steven Tyler Act” in conjunction with Tyler, which would make it a civil tort to “capture or intend 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.”
The proposed legislation, which will receive its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee on Friday, February 7, has already caught the attention of both local and national media groups as well as constitutional and media attorneys who maintain the law is a violation of the First Amendment.
The Motion Picture Association of America, a Washington DC-based trade association representing the leading California-based producers and distributors of theatrical and television motion pictures in the United States, submitted testimony to the Senate, saying the legislation violates the U.S. and Hawaii Constitutions.
“The bill attempts to protect privacy, but it does so at the right of free speech,” the organization writes, also maintaining the bill is “vague and ambiguous” and could be used against a member of the public who snapped and posted a photo of a celebrity taken on the street or in a restaurant.
Besides hurting legitimate news gathering efforts, the “overreaching” legislation, could jeopardize government investigations and law enforcement activities related to theft of motion picture copyrighted materials because it does not exempt them, the Motion Picture Association of America said.
The legislation won’t stop its intended target – paparazzi – from taking photographs, the Association asserts.
But the author of the Steven Tyler Act, Senator English, maintains the bill is needed because the paparazzi “go to far to disturb the peace and tranquility afforded celebrities who escape to Hawaii for a quiet life.” He said the bill is not unconstitutional and will help attract more celebrities and government dignitaries to the islands.
Several celebrities already have homes in Hawaii including Oprah Winfrey, Helen Hunt, Willy Nelson, Carlos Santana, Randy Travis, Woody Harrelson, Roseanne Barr and Kelsey Grammar, Ben Stiller, Bette Midler, Pierce Brosnan, Michael Crichton, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts and Natalie Merchant, and dozens of other celebrities regularly visit the islands.
But English said many more celebrities and government dignitaries are deterred from buying property or vacationing in Hawaii because “existing Hawaii statutes are silent on a civil cause of action for constructive invasion of privacy.” He said the bill won’t impact those who photograph celebrities in public places such as beaches and parks, but it will prevent them from photographing celebrities in their homes, hotels and restaurants among other locations.
While several of the 25 state Senators signed on to the bill, and Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee has scheduled a hearing, many others in the journalism, entertainment and legal professions are concerned about its impact.
Gerald Kato, a journalism professor at the University of Hawaii, said at best it is “constitutionally questionable” whether the state can create restrictions on the public’s right to take someone’s photograph.
“There are substantial First Amendment problems with what is being done and how it is being done,” Kato said, noting the legislation does not just raise serious questions and concerns for the news media, but it also impacts members of the public who might take photographs with their cameras and cell phones.
Kato called the legislation “ridiculous” and said the plan to draw celebrities to Hawaii by enacting a questionable kind of law, has left him “aghast.”
“The goal of the bill seems to be to attract more celebrities but if that comes with the surrender of fundamental rights, that is a great big cost and not a cost worth paying,” Kato said.
The Society of Professional Journalists – Hawaii Chapter also opposes the bill because “it is vague and overly broad and redoes the whole notion of invasion of privacy” and because “people could sue for photos of actions done in public under ill-defined circumstances.”
Chapter President Stirling Morita said “It would strip away First Amendment rights not only of news photographers but anyone with a camera. This is not an anti-paparazzi bill, it is an anti ‘anyone with a camera’ bill.”
Media attorney Jeff Portnoy, who represents several media organizations in Hawaii including Hawaii Reporter, said the legislation should be killed because it is poorly constructed and unnecessary because there are already laws in place to address violations of privacy and harassment. Portnoy predicts the legislation would spur extensive litigation if it becomes law.
Steven Tyler’s agent originally said Tyler would comment on the legislation named for him, but Tyler has not returned emails seeking specific comments on why he believes the legislation is needed and if it is a violation of the First Amendment. Hee’s office was not able to comment on whether Tyler would be testifying in person or submitting testimony on the bill for Friday’s hearing.