The Steven Tyler Act: Celebrities Can Collect Damages from Photographers Who Take Pictures “in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person.”

February 7th, 2013

Steven Tyler, and many other celebrities, are pushing a privacy law law in Hawaii, inauspiciously dubbed (in violation of Ted Frank’s Law) the Steven Tyler Act, that would limit the ability of photographers to record celebrities.

The bill would open up photographers, videographers and distributors to civil lawsuits if they take, sell or disseminate photos or videos of someone during private or family moments “in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person.”

The bill doesn’t specify whether public places, like Hawaii’s beaches, would be exempt. The bill says it would apply to people who take photos from boats or anywhere else within ocean waters.

How in the world is this Constitutional–especially if the photographs are taken in public? I couldn’t find the text of the bill, but this seems to be quite vague, and conflicts with the First Amendment.

Some serious groups have lined up against it, including the Motion Picture Association of America and the ACLU. I gather Google may be interested, as this would probably render Street View subject to massive liability.

Laurie Temple, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill would punish freedoms of expression protected by the First Amendment.

She said lawmakers should support better enforcement of current stalking laws rather than passing new legislation.

The National Press Photographers Association said the bill is “well-meaning but ill-conceived” and tramples on constitutional rights.

The New York-based organization represents numerous national media organizations with its letter, including the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press Media Editors and the American Society of News Editors.

The Motion Picture Association of America also opposes the bill.

But, the supporters have Britney Spears. So I guess that is like the ACLU.

More than a dozen celebrities have submitted testimony supporting the bill, including Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Neil Diamond, Tommy Lee and the Osborne family. The letters all included the same text.

The stars say paparazzi have made simple activities like cooking with family and sunbathing elusive luxuries and the bill would give them peace of mind.

“Providing a remedy to the often-egregious acts of the paparazzi is a very notable incentive to purchase property or vacation on the islands,” the stars said. “Not only would this help the local economy, but it would also help ensure the safety of the general public, which can be threatened by crowds of cameramen or dangerous high-speed car chases.”

It would seem punishing cameramen who go on high-speed chases would be more narrowly tailored than punishing them for taking photographs.

When I wrote Omniveillance years ago (which is nearing 10,000 downloads over five years), I looked at a lot of the anti-paparazzi laws at the time. Though I haven’t kept up to date, this seems to go far beyond anything other jurisdictions have done.