Oh, it’s going to be fun playing on Aerosmith songs when writing about this bill.

Don’t Walk This Way!

Dude (Looks Like A Photog)

Sweet Vacation

Star-struck lawmakers have introduced Senate Bill 465, which would allow famous people to sue if they felt their privacy was being invaded by people taking photos or making recordings of them.

According to the bill, “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.”

Called the Steven Tyler Act, SB 465 is named for Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith, former American Idol judge and now a parttime resident of Maui, where he recently purchased a home.

But the bill is already raising concerns among First Amendment experts.

“There is the possibility for some legislation to enforce the right to privacy that is protected under the Hawaii Constitution,” said Bethany Ace, a lawyer with Honolulu firm Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert. “But rights have to be limited for compelling state interests. This act could have effect on First Amendment rights or freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”

Subject To Damages

Why do celebrities need to be protected in Hawaii?

“Existing Hawaii statutes are silent on a civil cause of action for constructive invasion of privacy,” the bill explains. “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.”

The bill add, “If the constructive invasion of privacy is committed for a commercial purpose, the person shall also be subject to disgorgement to the plaintiff of any proceeds or other consideration obtained as a result of the violation of this section.”

“Disgorgement” is defined as the forced giving up of profits obtained by illegal or unethical acts. (Interestingly, it also means “to vomit.”)

The law would also apply to a person “who is situated within state marine water … while engaging in constructive invasion of privacy.”

SB 465’s lead sponsor is Maui Sen. Kalani English. Seventeen other senators have signed their support for the measure, suggesting strong chances for passage.

Civil Beat was unable to reach English who was in committee hearings all day.

Ace, the First Amendment attorney, said the bill’s vague language could affect more than just paparazzi.

“Two things strike me as areas of concern with respect to the scope of the First Amendment,” she said. “The preamble to the bill specifically mentions celebrities but nothing is said about limiting the act to celebrities and paparazzi. Could being liable for taking photos of celebrities also apply to just some random person? Courts are not tolerant of vague statutes that can inhibit speech. When does someone have an expectation to the right to privacy? California has a similar anti-paparazzi law with more specific definitions of key terms.”

Others have complained about aggressive paparazzi on Maui. In 2010, Paris Hilton complained loudly about an incident. Here’s an excerpt from MTV’s report:

After her recent drug bust, which sparked a media frenzy and apparently cost her boyfriend his job, it’s not surprising Paris Hilton retreated to Hawaii for some time out of the limelight. But being Paris Hilton usually means it’s hard to shake the spotlight, and the socialite lamented being flanked by throngs of overzealous photogs while on vacation.

“The paparazzi have been out of control in Maui,” Hilton tweeted on Thursday (September 9). “We had to call the cops because they have been trespassing on our property all week trying to get shots. As well as chasing our car wherever we go and almost running other cars off the road. It’s not only invasive and annoying, but dangerous as well.”

The Steven Tyler Act awaits a single hearing in Senate Judiciary and Labor; if approved, it would head to the House.

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