Hawaii is now contemplating a law that would make it illegal to snap photos of celebrities in public. Rock stars and actors are testifying before the Hawaii state senate, in support of the bill — officially called the “Steven Tyler Act.”
“Rock legends Steven Tyler and Mick Fleetwood convinced a Hawaii Senate committee on Friday to approve a bill to protect celebrities or anyone else from intrusive paparazzi,” the Washington Post reported last week. “The state Senate Judiciary Committee approved the so-called Steven Tyler Act after the stars testified at a hearing, saying they want to fiercely protect the little privacy they have as public figures. The bill would give people power to sue others who take photos or video of their private lives in an offensive way.”
Tyler, who is worth upwards of $130 million, according to estimates, talked about how disruptive the press can be.
“That’s what they do, they are just constantly taking from us,” Tyler told the fawning committee.
“Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne were among more than a dozen celebrities who submitted testimony supporting the bill along with the rockers,” the Post added.
Now, no one is saying that paparazzi aren’t annoying — except, maybe, the millions of people who buy the magazines and visit the celebrity-oriented web sites that pay them for the photos.
But we’re talking about basic First Amendment freedoms here.
But it doesn’t define the terms “offensive” or “reasonable,” and pretty much everything can be considered a “personal or familial activity.”
“The bill offers no exceptions for newsworthy content,” Cato explains. “It simply assumes that if a person is “engaging in a personal or familial activity with a reasonable expectation of privacy,” any photograph would be illegal.
Newspapers covering matters of public affairs (that may be personal or familial) could be snared by this statute.”
Even private citizens, who simply take out their iPhone to take a picture when a celebrity walks by, would be criminals.
“The penalties are severe, and include compensatory damages, treble punitive damages, and disgorgement of profits,” Cato continues. “Such penalties on a vague statute would easily chill speech far beyond the worst kind of paparazzi any celebrity can imagine.”
Remember, such celebrities actively sought their fame and fortune. Is it sad that they can’t jet off to Hawaii and enjoy a little quiet time? Sure.
But it’s not such a dire situation that the First Amendment freedoms of the press and of speech should be trampled to protect lifestyles of the rich and famous.