BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Legendary Rock Stars Steven Tyler and Mick Fleetwood testified at the Hawaii state capitol on Friday in favor of legislation they believe will prevent pesky paparazzi from recording or photographing them and other celebrities while in the islands.
The “Steven Tyler Act”, introduced at Tyler’s request by Sen. Kalani English, D-Maui, 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.”
Tyler of Aerosmith fame, and Fleetwood, the British drummer for Fleetwood Mac, own homes on Maui. Tyler recently purchased a $4.8 million beachfront house and Fleetwood made Maui his permanent residence 10 years ago and in August opened a restaurant called Fleetwood’s on Front Street. Both said they have been harassed while on their private property by paparazzi, including some who have cameras that can take high-resolution photos from up to a mile away.
“First and foremost, being a personality no matter where we go we get shot. It is just part of the deal and it is ok. It kind of drives us crazy, but as my mom said, ‘you asked for it Steven,’” Tyler said.
“But when I am in my own home and I am taking a shower or changing clothes or eating or spending Christmas with my children, and I see paparazzi a mile at La Paruse shooting at me with lenses this long and then seeing that same picture in People magazine, it hurts. My kids don’t want to go out with me and this Christmas was one of the first times that I got them all together at the house. It meant so much to me,” Tyler added.
Fleetwood said he is supporting Tyler and his bill because something should have been done a long time ago to address the paparazzi and invasion of privacy. “Enough is enough,” Fleetwood said.
Coming to Hawaii since 1973, and living here for 10 years, Fleetwood said he has actually had hundreds of encounters with paparazzi and has become “immune to it to some extent.”
“The bill being introduced reminded me of how incorrect that is, and to take a stand,” Fleetwood said, adding that some of the photos really effect celebrities especially when they have to start explaining reports that appeared to their family “that are not even true.”
Hollywood Attorney Dina LaPolt, who represents Tyler and Fleetwood, helped draft the legislation and testified along side her clients on Friday. She said technology allows people to take high-resolution photographs and sound recordings and video from unprecedented distances, and added that it is now a “trend” for paparazzi in Hawaii to take photos from boats off shore.
The Steven Tyler Act will be a strong deterrent against paparazzi, LaPolt said, and the law would give celebrities “peace of mind.”
“As a professional who works very closely with public figures, I understand how much of an impact the paparazzi can have on their lives on a daily basis. As it is, public figures already have a highly diminished expectation of privacy. This makes the small amount of privacy they do have that much more precious to them,” LaPolt added.
LaPolt said the added protection “is important for Steven Tyler and Mick Fleetwood who come to Hawaii to escape the daily rat race of the mainland, reconnect with nature and enjoy the tranquility Hawaii has to offer,” especially because “that peace is often interrupted by paparazzi stalking them at all hours of the day while they try to go about their daily lives.”
The media has focused on the legislation’s impact on celebrities – in part because Britney Spears, Neil Diamond, Avril Lavigne, 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 – all submitted testimony in support of the measure.
Several of the celebrities signed a form letter that in part read: “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.”
But LaPolt maintained the law would have a much bigger impact. “Although this is called the Steven Tyler Act, this is not just a law for Steven Tyler. This law will protect a large class of people – all public figures,” LaPolt said.
Critics argue the bill is a clear violation of the First Amendment and would having a “chilling effect” on free speech.
Laurie Temple, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill violated the First Amendment, and suggested lawmakers better enforce existing laws.
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 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.
Stirling Morita, spokesperson for Hawaii chapter of The Society of Professional Journalists, opposed the bill because “It would strip away First Amendment rights not only of news photographers but anyone with a camera.”
Media attorney Jeff Portnoy, who represents several media organizations in Hawaii including Hawaii Reporter, called the bill “a headline grabbing bill that makes lawmakers look silly.”
Portnoy maintained Hawaii already has laws in place to address violations of privacy, trespassing and harassment and said the legislation goes way beyond what is necessary to protect celebrities’ privacy.
“It is like using an atomic weapon to kill an ant,” Portnoy said.
The bill violates the U.S. Constitution, Portnoy said, claiming it will not withstand a court challenge, but he is still concerned about the bill’s impact.
“The idea of pandering to celebrities who spend their lives cultivating publicity should be of significant concern to everyone, because it does not only restrict so call paparazzi but it has impacts far beyond that,” Portnoy said.
LaPolt dismissed critics’ arguments: “Opponents of the bill wrongly claim that this bill violates the First Amendment. … Publishing the news may come under the First Amendment, but the act of acquiring the information does not.”
LaPolt said she modeled the legislation after a California bill that she and Tyler and Fleetwood told lawmakers the California law is working.
But Portnoy noted the California law, which has been in existence since 1999, is still under review by the California appellate courts.
There were several concerns about the first draft of the legislation. Portnoy said the bill’s original language was vague and did not define what conduct is and what conduct is not actionable, or who the bill applies to.
“As originally written, it could subject a tourist to treble damages for taking a photo of a celebrity on the beach,” Portnoy said.
But Senate Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee said on Friday that he added a provision clarifying the language so it protects public figures while they are on their own private property, but not in public or on private property such as hotels, restaurants and shopping malls.
Senators unanimously supported the revised draft of the bill, with changes that has only been made available to lawmakers and the media verbally. The bill still must pass the full Senate and the House, before going to the Governor for his consideration.
After the 10 a.m. hearing, which went for an hour and a half, Senators invited Tyler to address the entire Senate during the time normally used for prayer and contemplation. Tyler took the time to lobby lawmakers. Afterward, he and Fleetwood remained on the Senate floor to meet briefly with reporters.
SEE THE FULL TESTIMONY OF STEVEN TYLER, MICK FLEETWOOD AND THEIR ATTORNEY DINA LAPOLT
MORE ON THE WEB
See the full array of testimony online at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2013/Testimony/SB465_TESTIMONY_JDL_02-08-13.pdf