Rock legends Steven Tyler and Mick Fleetwood helped convince a Hawaii Senate committee to approve a bill to protect celebrities or anyone else from intrusive paparazzi.
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, such as using telephoto lenses or other advanced equipment to record them on their private properties.
Tyler said he asked Sen. Kalani English to introduce the measure after paparazzi took a photo of Tyler and his girlfriend in his home, and it was published by a national magazine as part of a report saying the two were getting married.
“It caused a ripple in my family,” Tyler told The Associated Press after the hearing. “I hadn’t told anybody.”
The Aerosmith frontman and former “American Idol” judge says his kids don’t want to go out with him in Hawaii because of the threat of photographers who sometimes get on boats to take photos of him from the ocean.
“That’s what they do, they are just constantly taking from us,” Tyler said.
Fleetwood, the drummer from Fleetwood Mac, says he’s gotten used to the constant attention but realizes that it’s a “grim reality.”
“The islands shouldn’t represent this to people coming here,” Fleetwood said.
Tyler addressed Hawaii senators briefly during a general session following the hearing and received applause from lawmakers.
During the hearing, Senate judiciary committee chair Clayton Hee scrapped the bill’s original contents — which were largely drafted by Tyler’s lawyer — and replaced them with language from a related California statute.
The California law was originally passed in 1998 in response to the death of Princess Diana, then amended in 2009 to permit lawsuits against media outlets that pay for and make first use of material they knew was improperly obtained. In addition to provisions against advanced equipment, the California measure has penalties for reckless behavior while attempting to get photos or video of a celebrity.
Senators also added an amendment to exempt law enforcement authorities, who use telephoto lenses and other such equipment during investigations.
Hee said he wants to move the bill straight to the Senate floor and to the House “in deference and in agreement with” Tyler.
Tyler said he was largely satisfied with the amendments. His lawyer, Dina LaPolt, agreed immediately after the hearing but said she planned to go over the changes more fully.
English says the bill is necessary to protect privacy in the digital age.
He says that while the constitution protects news publishing, it doesn’t protect news gathering.
Stirling Morita, president of the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, said he disagrees.
He says even with the bill’s amendments, it’s still too vague.
“You have to be pretty definite to limit First Amendment rights,” Morita said.
The bill was also opposed by the National Press Photographers Association, which submitted testimony on behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press Media Editors and the American Society of News Editors, among other media groups.
More than two-thirds of the state Senate co-sponsored the measure. Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne were among more than a dozen celebrities who submitted testimony supporting the bill along with the rockers.
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.
Tyler said stars today are pestered much worse than previous generations given modern technology and lucrative paydays for paparazzi.
The unusual hearing packed a conference room in the Hawaii Capitol, and generated buzz from state staffers who captured cellphone pictures of Tyler and Fleetwood, then compared snapshots in the hallways after the hearing.
Cameras clicked excitedly when the musicians walked into a room packed with lawmakers, staffers, media and other onlookers.
Sam Slom, the sole Republican in Hawaii’s 25-member Senate, ribbed Tyler about tabloid magazine photos that showed the singer in a revealing bathing suit.
“Mr. Tyler, it’s a pleasure to see you in clothes today,” Slom said.