Anti-paparazzi bill pushed by Steven Tyler approved by Hawaii Senate committee

Lilly Chapa | Newsgathering | News | February 13, 2013

The Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee approved an anti-paparazzi bill that would allow people who are photographed on their private property or while taking part in “personal or family activities” to sue the photographer for invasion of privacy.

The bill — dubbed the "Steven Tyler Act" due to the Aerosmith lead singer’s role in initiating and drafting the initial legislation — was amended by Senate Committee Chairman Clayton Hee to limit the bill’s scope and clarify the wording. The bill is now expected to be voted on by the full state Senate.

Tyler and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac testified before the Senate committee last week, urging members to approve the act. The stars argued that they should be able to enjoy time with their families on Hawaii’s beaches without being constantly stalked by paparazzi.

Hee amended much of the bill’s language, which was originally written by Tyler’s attorney, to mirror California’s anti-paparazzi law. The amendments include specifying what defines private property where a plaintiff would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, deleting language about civil fines and clarifying the definition of “personal or family activity.”

The bill would also outlaw the use of telephoto lenses and other advanced camera and recording equipment to view people on private property. Although the bill is supported primarily by celebrities and is aimed at paparazzi, it would apply to everyone.

Media organizations have criticized the bill for being too vague and infringing upon the First Amendment rights of photographers. The National Press Photographers Association, joined by 14 media organizations including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, submitted a letter to the Legislature arguing against the measure.

“[The bill] imposes civil penalties of alarming breadth and burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to advance a compelling government interest,” the NPPA letter stated. “While we recognize the right of privacy, we oppose a broadening of these protections by abridging the clearly established tenents of First Amendment Jurisprudence.”

While most states have some sort of privacy laws that affect photography, California's privacy laws have provisions taking aim at overzealous photographers seeking to snap celebrity photos. The state's so-called "anti-paparazzi" law, which was first passed in 1999, prohibits trespassing with the intent of capturing photographic images or sound recordings of people in "personal or familial activity."

The state's vehicle code was also recently amended to include penalties for anyone who interferes with the driver of a vehicle, follows too closely or drives recklessly "with the intent to capture any type of visual image, sound recording or other physical impressions of another person for a commercial purpose."

The California laws permit the subjects of illegally obtained photos to file a civil suit, and anyone who publishes illegally obtained photos can also be subject to fines.