Hawaii Senate aims at paparazzi, shoots free speech

Steven Tyler and Mick Fleetwood at the Hawaii Senate Judiciary hearing (photo by Mel Ah Ching)
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Steven Tyler and Mick Fleetwood at the Hawaii Senate Judiciary hearing (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

Rock legend Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame can sing a happy Hawaiian tune. The Hawaii State Senate on Tuesday, March 5, passed the Steven Tyler Act, legislation that Tyler and other celebrities said will protect them from overzealous journalists and paparazzi.

The bill, which has been criticized by journalism and media groups both locally and nationally, establishes a civil violation against anyone taking photos, videos and other unauthorized recordings of celebrities and other public officials while they are on their private property.


Just two of 25 senators opposed the measure including Sen. Les Ihara, D-Kapahulu, and Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai.

Slom noted Hawaii has been ridiculed for the legislation by news editorials across the country and said the bill is unnecessary because Hawaii already has privacy and trespassing laws that protect individuals including celebrities.

Sen. Kalani English, D- Maui, introduced the bill at the request of Tyler, after Tyler said a photographer violated his privacy when he took pictures of him and his family last Christmas.

Tyler, Mick Fleetwood of the rock group Fleetwood Mac, and their Hollywood attorney, testified in support of the measure at a February 8 hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee.

Steven Tyler and Mick Fleetwood speak to reporters after the hearing (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

“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 at the hearing. “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 away 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.”

Several celebrities submitted testimony to the Hawaii Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee in support of the Steven Tyler Act including 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 members of the Osborne family including Jack, Sharon, Kelly and Ozzy.

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.

Senate Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee revised the bill to clarify the constructive invasion of privacy tort applies to private property, and not public areas like beaches and parks, but several media entities are still concerned the bill violates the First Amendment and will hurt news collecting efforts.

Jeff Portnoy, a First Amendment attorney with Cades Schutte LLP, who represents several media outlets in Hawaii, said the changes are not substantial enough.

Portnoy called the bill “terrible, unnecessary, possibly unconstitutional” and maintained Senators are pandering to a few celebrities at the expense of the media and the public.

Hawaii First Amendment attorney Jeff Portnoy (file photo)

“Celebrities seek public exposure. Just ask Steven Tyler how much he spends each year for his publicist. Yet this bill would allow them to decide what publicity they like and don’t like. Yes, a paparazzi who trespasses on private property to take a picture of someone should and can be prosecuted. But what happens in open space, like our beaches, is fair game so long as there is no reasonable expectation of privacy,” Portnoy said

To pass a law to simply pander to a few ‘famous people’ is an embarrassment, Portnoy said.

“This bill is unconstitutionally vague in its lack of clear definitions and would possibly subject even a local or tourist to serious sanctions for taking a picture of a ‘celebrity,’” Portnoy said.  “There is also sufficient current law available to persons whose privacy rights have been wrongfully violated. There are both criminal and civil remedies available for trespass, public disclosure of private facts, and intrusion.”

“It needs to be defeated,” Portnoy added.

The bill will be transmitted to the House of Representatives for consideration of its 76 members. The governor would still need to give final approval to the measure.






  1. I am glad they made the stipulation about private property. My concern about a blanket law "thou shalt not photography X" is that it would be quickly applied to "thou shalt not photography Y", with Y being the police clubbing an Occupy protester on Ala Moana Blvd. But I agree that the First Amendment does NOT grant a right to take pictures and video on private property. Privacy on your own property is protected by the Bill of Rights, not just from the government, but from other citizens as well.

    Celebrities have to expect they will be seen and have pictures/videos taken while they are in public. It comes with the job. Some celebs love the attention, others do not, but they all understand that the public that wants to see them in real life is buying the theater tickets, the DVDs, and cable subscriptions, and you alienate them at great risk to your industry "bankability." Some celebs, as their star starts to fade, actively seek out the paparazzi for some attention.

    But while we may rightly condemn (and ban) Paparazzi intrusions into the private lives of celebrities, the real problem is with the people buying those tabloids at the supermarket checkout lines, to take a peek into the homes of the stars. I suspect these are people whose own lives are rather empty, and they dream of having been part of Hollywood glamor themselves, and by seeing past the doors and curtains of the celebrities, they feel they are somehow now "insiders", although that is of course, an illusion; one which the publishers of the tabloids profit handsomely from.

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