BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Britney Spears, Neil Diamond, Avril Lavigne, Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, Tommy Lee of Motley Crew, Fred Coury of Cinderella, Frankie Banali of Quiet Riot, Darren Dizzy Reid of Guns N Roses, actresses Margaret Cho and Kat Von D, and several members of the Osborne family including Jack, Sharon, Kelly and Ozzy, have all come together for a common cause.
No, it’s not a rock concert or a Hollywood charity fundraiser – they are rallying around Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame in his attempt to control pesky paparazzi and journalists in Hawaii.
Tyler, 64, who owns a $4.8 million mansion on a Maui beach, wants the Hawaii legislature to pass the “Steven Tyler Act”, a controversial 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.
Tyler submitted testimony to the Hawaii Senate and is expected to testify at a Friday Senate Judiciary Hearing in support of the bill baring his name.
Senator Kalani English, D-Maui, introduced the legislation at Tyler’s request. The bill makes 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.”
Several of the stars signed one of two form letters that said the legislation would help the economy because more celebrities would buy homes in Hawaii and visit.
“Providing a remedy to the often-egregious acts of the paparazzi is a very notable incentive to purchase property or vacation on the island. 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,” the form letter said.
However, local and national media groups as well as constitutional attorneys maintain the law is a violation of the First Amendment.
The Motion Picture Association of America, National Press Photographers Association, Society of Professional Journalists, Associated Press Media Editors and the American Society of News Editors all have submitted testimony opposing the measure, and are united in their assessment that the bill violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“The bill attempts to protect privacy, but it does so at the right of free speech,” according to 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.
The bill is “well meaning but ill conceived” and violates the U.S. Constitution, according to the National Press Photographers Association.
University of Hawaii Journalism Professor Gerald Kato said the legislation raises serious questions and concerns for the news media, and impacts members of the public who might take photographs with their cameras and cell phones.
The Society of Professional Journalists – Hawaii Chapter opposes the bill because “It would strip away First Amendment rights not only of news photographers but anyone with a camera.”
Hawaii residents who weighed in on the legislation were not supportive. They said the bill is a “publicity stunt” for Tyler and claimed the bill got introduced to “appease an ego maniac.”
And attorney Jeff Portnoy, who represents several media organizations in Hawaii including Hawaii Reporter, said the law isn’t needed because there are already laws in place to address violations of privacy and harassment.
One major concern highlighted by several opponents is the legislation does not define areas that are off limits for photographers, journalists and members of the public – for example, the beach.
But the author of the Steven Tyler Act, Senator English, said the public could take photos at the beach, but not in locations such as hotels, homes, restaurants and other private areas.
He and the celebrities who sent in testimony maintain the bill is needed because the paparazzi go to far to disturb the “peace.”
See the full array of testimony online at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2013/Testimony/SB465_TESTIMONY_JDL_02-08-13.pdf