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Hawaii considers bill to protect privacy of celebrities

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February 11, 2013

Hawaii

By Jennifer Springer

HONOLULU, Hawaii: Celebrities Steven Tyler and Mick Fleetwood appeared on February 8, 2013 at a Hawaii legislative hearing to push a bill aimed at protecting celebrities' privacy.[1][2] The testimony convinced the Hawaii State Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the so-called "Steven Tyler Act," SB465, to protect celebrities, or anyone else, from intrusive paparazzi.[3]

The bill would give people power to sue others who take photos or video of their private lives in an offensive way.[3][4]

Tyler said he had his manager draft the bill and requested that Sen. Kalani English introduce it on his behalf.[1] During the hearing, State Senate Judiciary Committee chair Clayton Hee replaced much of the bill’s original contents,which were largely drafted by Tyler’s counsel, and replaced them with language from a related California statute.

The California statute was originally passed in 1998 in response to the death of Princess Diana, then amended in 2009 to permit lawsuits against media outlets that pay for and make first use of material they knew was improperly obtained. In addition to provisions against advanced equipment, the California measure has penalties for reckless behavior while attempting to get photos or video of a celebrity.[5]

Senators also added an amendment to exempt law enforcement authorities, who use telephoto lenses and other such equipment during investigations.[5]

Hee said he wants to move the bill straight to the senate floor and to the house “in deference and in agreement with” Tyler.[5]

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he supports the intent of the bill but said it may need to be refined.[6] The state attorney general will testify about legal concerns concerning the bill's language.[6]

Tyler discussed the bill stating, "The paradise of Hawaii is a magnet for celebrities who just want a peaceful vacation. As a person in the public eye, I know the paparazzi are there and we have to accept that. But when they intrude into our private space, disregard our safety and the safety of others, that crosses a serious line that shouldn't be ignored."[6]

Opposition to the bill argue that the bill, even with its amendments, is still too vague. Stirling Morita, president of the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists commented, “You have to be pretty definite to limit First Amendment rights.”[5]

The bill is also opposed by the National Press Photographers Association, which submitted testimony on behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press Media Editors and the American Society of News Editors, among other media groups.[5][7]

The National Press Photographers Association said the bill is "well-meaning but ill-conceived" and tramples on constitutional rights.[5]

Laurie Temple, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said on February 7th that the bill would punish freedoms of expression protected by the First Amendment, arguing instead that lawmakers should support better enforcement of current stalking laws rather than passing new legislation.[5]

If the act is eventually passed by the full legislature and signed into law, it will likely take effect July 1, 2013.[7]

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