‘Steven Tyler Act’: Hawaii lawmakers look to limit paparazzi

A state senator in Hawaii authored the so-called Steven Tyler Act to protect celebrities' privacy from paparazzi.
(Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images/Voice Health Institute)

With Steven Tyler as their public symbol and California’s anti-paparazzi laws as their guide, Hawaiian politicians are backing legislation they hope will make their state more welcoming to celebrities.

J. Kalani English, the state senator who wrote the bill that paves the way for celebrities to lodge civil suits against paparazzi, has dubbed SB 465 the “Steven Tyler Act.”

Aerosmith’s flamboyant frontman -- who dressed up in drag for a recent episode of “American Idol” -- owns a home in Maui and reached out to English, telling him paparazzi in boats offshore frequently use telephoto lenses to snap pictures inside his home.


“I have a lot of public figures who live here and this has been something that’s been on the plate for a while,” English said. “Steven stepped forward and said, ‘I can be the face of it.’ ”

The bill would allow celebrities to sue a paparazzo for taking a picture in those circumstances, even if the photo was never sold, and collect any money paid to the photographer from a sale.

The bill’s language is up for interpretation -- it defines “invasion of privacy” as taking pictures or recordings of someone “engaging in a personal or familial activity with a reasonable expectation of privacy.” English brushed aside early reports characterizing the bill as the end of all bikini-clad-celebrity-on-the-beach-in-Hawaii photos.

“The beach is open ground,” English said. “This is delineating public and private spaces. The litmus test is if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

To decipher gray areas, English said, he looked to California’s civil code and “copied it almost exactly.”

“It’s worked well for California,” English said. “I think this helps us to fortify tourism and a film industry.”


Jeff Portnoy, a media lawyer in Hawaii, told the Associated Press he thinks the bill is flawed: “It’s unnecessary, it’s potentially unconstitutional and it flies in the face of decades of privacy law.”

Eighteen of the state’s 25 senators have signed on to the bill and it’s headed to a judiciary committee, but a discussion date hasn’t been set.


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Twitter: @marisagerber