Hawaii lawmakers propose "Steven Tyler Act"

Hawaii lawmakers propose "Steven Tyler Act"
Image: Splash News
Image: Splash News

They come to Hawaii for rest and relaxation, but apparently not recognition—and a new bill may soon offer celebrities and other public figures the privacy they crave when they're in the islands.

The so-called "Steven Tyler Act" was authored by Senator Kalani English—who named it after the famous rock star who lives in his district and reached out for help.

"It prohibits photos from being taken where there's a reasonable expectation of privacy," said Senator English, by phone as he made his way back home to Hana.

Senator English says despite conflicting reports, this bill will not prohibit individuals or photograhers from taking pictures of celebs when they're out in public, for example—enjoying one of Hawaii's beaches.

"Beach is a public space in Hawaii—so you can take any picture you want, but if you use a telephoto lens to go into someone's living room or bedroom—then that's an invasion of privacy," said Senator English.

The bill defines an "invasion of privacy" as capturing images or sound of public figures "in a matter that is offensive to a reasonable person" during personal or family moments. It would allow public figures to sue over snapshots or video that's taken or sold.

Hawaii media lawyer Jeff Portnoy calls the legislation a "hero-worship" bill that never should have been introduced.

"I think it's probably unconstitutional. It's vague and doesn't define what the improper conduct is-- it doesn't clearly set out who it applies to," said Portnoy, by phone. "There's more than enough civil and criminal matters available to celebrities and others who believe their privacy has been invaded."

Portnoy says the pre-amble to the bill is especially embarrassing because it encourages celebs to buy property in Maui.

"Would you encourage a few celebrities to buy property because you violated the constitution - probably, but I'm not sure if that's what's in the best interest of the people of Hawaii," said Portnoy.

According to Senator English, there are still a lot of details to sort out—but "that's what hearings are for."

"I don't know where people are getting this idea that it creates a special carve-out for celebrities -- it creates a carve-out for your personal space and that's different," said Senator English.

No specific hearing date has been set, but the bill has been introduced and referred to committee. More than two-thirds of Hawaii's state senators have signed off on the bill.

Senator English tells me the bill is mirrored after California civil code that's been in place since 1998. This is the first time legislation of this nature has been introduced in Hawai'i.

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