Proposed Hawaii law protects celebs from prying eyes
Posted February 2, 2013
Celebrities from Elvis Presley to native son Barack Obama have long escaped to the Aloha State for R&R, attracting plenty of paparazzi and reporters during their stays. The results haven't always been pretty: In 2010, Paris Hilton complained loudly that she'd been harassed by throngs of over-zealous photogs on a post-drug bust retreat to Maui.
But if a recently proposed bill is approved by Hawaii lawmakers, famous visitors and residents could sue if they believed their privacy was invaded by people taking photos or making recordings of them.
The "Steven Tyler Act" was named after the Aerosmith singer and former American Idol judge, who recently bought a home on Maui (where the Daily Mail found him wearing assorted bling and a camouflage Speedo). It could be used to prosecute a photographer or reporter "if the person captures or intends 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."
According to the bill, authored by State. Sen. J. Kalani English, "the legislature finds that Hawaii is home to many celebrities, particularly on Maui, who are subjected to harassment from photographers and reporters seeking photographs and news stories. The privacy of these celebrities endure unwarranted invasion into their personal lives. Although their celebrity status may justify a lower expectation of privacy, the legislature finds that sometimes the paparazzi go too far to disturb the peace and tranquility afforded celebrities who escape to Hawaii for a quiet life."
"Existing Hawaii statutes are silent on a civil cause of action for constructive invasion of privacy," the bill continues. "Therefore, many celebrities are deterred from buying property or vacationing in Hawaii because the same paparazzi that harass them on the mainland are more likely to follow them to Hawaii."
Those who violate the Steven Tyler Act could be subject to general, special and punitive damages "up to three times the amount of general and special damages combined."
Despite the fact that the bill applies to anyone "who is situated within state marine waters ... while engaging in constructive invasion of privacy, " it apparently wouldn't prevent individuals from taking pictures of celebs when they're out in public - including the beach.
"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," English told HawaiiNewsNow.com.
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 is taken or sold.
But Hawaii media lawyer Jeff Portnoy calls the proposed legislation a "hero-worship" bill.
"Sounds like some 'celebrity' got to some of the legislators," Portnoy told the Hawaii Reporter. "It needs to be defeated in its present form or expect lots of litigation."
More than two-thirds of Hawaii's 25 state senators have signed off on the bill, which has been referred to committee with no hearing date set.
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