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Updated: Hawaii passes celebrity privacy “Steven Tyler Act”

Mar 05, 2013 1:34 pm

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Celebrities care a lot about privacy, or at least like to make the most noise about it. This bill, its proponents says, could help increase celebrity tourism, that is, celebrities holidaying in Hawaii.

— Rafat Ali

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Updated: Hawaii state Senate has passed the bill, 23 of the state’s 25 Senate members voted in favor of the bill, which now goes to the House for consideration.

Original story: The Hawaii state Senate plans to vote Tuesday on the so-called Steven Tyler Act, a bill aimed at protecting celebrities and other public figures from unwanted media attention by creating a civil violation for people who take photos or videos of others’ private moments.

The Aerosmith lead singer from Massachusetts asked Sen. Kalani English to sponsor the bill after photos of Tyler and his girlfriend made news in December, causing family drama.

Tyler owns a multimillion dollar home in Maui, part of English’s district. English said the bill, which was co-sponsored by more than two-thirds of the Senate, could help increase celebrity tourism in Hawaii.

Several other celebrities have also thrown their weight behind the bill, including Britney Spears, Mick Fleetwood and the Osborne family.

But national media organizations worry about the proposal’s impact on freedom of the press. The National Press Photographers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists were some of several national media organizations that submitted testimony opposing the bill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee responded to criticism of the bill’s vague language by replacing the original version with the text of an existing California anti-paparazzi statute.

But longtime media lawyer Jeff Portnoy said the bill is still problematic.

“It’s better, but it doesn’t change its fatal flaws,” he said. The measure’s language is still ambiguous and it is unnecessary, given existing laws, Portnoy said.

“Our only chance to get some sanity into this is in the House,” he said.

Sen. Sam Slom, the state Senate’s only Republican member, said he plans to vote against the bill. The California law the bill is modeled after is still undergoing legal challenges and Hawaii’s privacy laws are already some of the strictest in the nation, he said. The right to privacy is enshrined in the Hawaii state Constitution, Slom said.

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