Steven Tyler might sing about making “love in an elevator” but it appears the lead singer for the rock band Aerosmith is considerably more reserved when it comes to having his beach body exposed on the pages of the gossip magazines.
Tyler is the instigator of a new bill before the Hawaiian legislature that would ban paparazzi from taking his photo in situations where he has an expectation of privacy.
The musician (pic) a part-time resident of Maui and recent honoree in the New York Daily News list of “Celebrity Bodies We Never Wanted To See” so wowed the members of the legislature that they even named the Act after him.
The Steven Tyler Act represents the latest front in the American entertainment industry’s battle against the perceived excesses of photographers and videographers who pursue celebrities with the possibility of earning thousands for exclusive photos.
The bill’s preamble states:
“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.”
Concerned that Hawaiian realtors are being denied buckets of cash by the snooping press, the legislature further claims:
“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.”
The legislature wants to “encourage celebrities to visit and reside in our state by creating a civil cause of action for the constructive invasion of privacy.”
Anyone who “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.”
Needless to say, the new bill has been met with considerable resistance from the media industry and other supporters of the First Amendment, including from some unexpected parts of the entertainment world.
As written, the bill could make anyone liable for just taking a photograph (and not publishing it) of a subject who might have an expectation of privacy.
For instance, the wandering tourist who innocently takes a photo of someone notable walking along Waikiki Beach with their family.
The New York Times did not hold back in its evisceration of the proposed new Act in a recent editorial, calling it “an earnest but boneheaded” piece of legislation:
“Mr. Tyler, who recently bought a home on Maui, is not known for heavy involvement in Hawaii politics, though he could be said to have skin in this game.
The Daily Mail, a British paper, snagged a photo of him a year ago at the beach, wearing only camouflage Speedos and some jewelry. It was not a publicity still.”
Quoting a local resident, the Times ends its editorial with the simple request: “Please trash this trashy bill.”
Steven Tyler rejects the notion that his support of the bill is an attempt to seek revenge over the public exposure of his less-than-taut body features.
“The paradise of Hawaii is a magnet for celebrities who just want a peaceful vacation,” Tyler said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.
“As a person in the public eye, I know the paparazzi are there and we have to accept that. But when they intrude into our private space, disregard our safety and the safety of others, that crosses a serious line that shouldn’t be ignored.”
Tyler has been joined by more than a dozen celebrities including Mick Fleetwood, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Neil Diamond, Tommy Lee and the Osborne family (the latter who arguably owe their fame and fortune to those terribly intrusive reality TV cameras that they volunteered to subject themselves to).
The rocker told a recent legislative hearing:
“First and foremost I’d like to say, being a personality, no matter where we go, we get shot. It’s part of the deal-io, and it’s OK.
It kind of drives us crazy, but, like my mom said, ‘You asked for it, Steven.’
But when I’m in my own home and I’m taking a shower or changing clothes or eating or spending Christmas with my children, and I see paparazzi a mile away, shooting at me with lenses this long, and then seeing that very picture in People magazine, you know, it hurts …That’s what they do, they are just constantly taking from us.”
Bill No.465 heavily borrows from similar anti-paparazzi laws in California – a state well known for its support of Hollywood causes (as opposed to media-centric New York which has no such laws).
Like its counterpart, the new bill punishes not just those who take the image but as well as any media company or photo agency which commissions the photographer to do the work, or others who publish knowing that the taking of the photo was in breach of the law.
Much confusion exists in Hawaii over phrasing in the bill such as “personal and familial activity” and “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
And not everyone in Hollywood is supportive. In its submission to the legislature, the Motion Picture Association of America is scathing of the vagueness of the language of the bill.
“If a public person were walking on a public sidewalk to take his child to school and a tourist snapped a photo and posted it to their social media site or blog that action could be subject to a lawsuit under the bill,” the MPAA says in its submission.
“Similarly, a famous person having dinner with her family at a restaurant might be able to state a claim under this bill against the person who took a photo and the news program that broadcast the photo.”
If the Steven Tyler Act is passed by the full legislature and signed into law, it will take effect July 1.
*Michael Cameron, an Australian lawyer and former journalist, works as in-house counsel for The New York Post. The Post’s parent company, News Corporation, is a member of the Media Law Research Center, one of the media groups opposing the new legislation.
This post originally appeared in the Gazette of Law and Journalism– Australia’s leading online media law journal.