They come to Hawai'i for refuge, not recognition-- that's the message from Aerosmith rocker Steven Tyler and Fleetwood Mac's Mick Fleetwood. Both testified today in support of the "Steven Tyler Act" which is mirrored after a similar celebrity privacy law in California.
"First and foremost I'd like to say that being a personality no matter where we go, we get shots. It's part of the dealio and it's ok, it kinda drives us crazy but as my mom says -- you asked for it Steve," said Tyler, addressing the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Drawing a line between public personas and private lives-- that's the aim of Senate Bill 465, named for the Aerosmith lead singer and Maui resident.
"We know who we are and we love what we do and we're blessed and cursed at some extent but we accept that because that's our life," said Fleetwood Mac drummer and fellow Maui resident, Mick Fleetwood. "But to have it translate across a border to your privacy-- your absolute reasonable privacy -- it is abhorrent and it's not what these islands should stand for."
The bill would allow celebrities to sue people who take their photos or video in "an offensive way" during personal or family time.
"Obviously in public places, it's ok-- public is public. It's America, America's free," said Tyler. "But when I go on my lawn at home or close the door and go in the bathroom and brush my teeth and choose to keep the window open -- and they got a shot of me doing that and then they put some caption under it -- that's not fair."
Fleetwood, who made a point to express how much he and Tyler love living in the islands added: "It's for everyone to get a sense-- it's just not right to be doing that and the community itself of Hawaii should be aware of that and that's what we're really happy to be bringing to people's attention."
The bill is opposed by local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Society of Professional Journalists, including Hawaii News Now.
"At ACLU we always ask ourselves whether a proposed measure will keep us safe and free," said Laurie Temple, staff attorney for ACLU Hawaii. "Efforts to promote safety and privacy amongst Hawaii's residents and tourists is of utmost importance but it can't be done so at the expense of our First Amendment freedoms."
Stirling Morita, president of the Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, raised similar concerns.
"We have problems that it's still a little vague and broad in terms of personal and familial activity," said Morita. "You have to be pretty definite to curtail First Amendment rights. I don't know how you go about defining it. I couldn't define it for you, but it seems vague enough that it would still draw a reaction from us as not being Constitutional."
Senator Kalani English, who authored the bill at Tyler's request, says it only applies to homes and private spaces not public areas like Hawaii's beaches.
"The only thing the Constitution protects is the ability to disseminate the news and to put the news out," said Senator English, who represents the Maui district. "At issue is the gathering part -- and that part needs to have reasonable laws to protect everyone involved."
Senator English says the "reasonable expectation of privacy" provision is not something new he's created, but an existing legal standard he'd simply like to see applied here in Hawai'i.
Fleetwood, who's been visiting the islands since 1973, has been a permanent resident and business owner on Maui for the past 10 years.
"I'm learning about the aloha that exists on these islands and sometimes people think it sounds corny to say that, but it's not-- and this is a typical example of something that's going to perpetuate that and really have this place be a home."
"You buy a house in paradise here -- where it's supposed to be paradise and it needs to be respected," said Tyler, who recently purchased his home in Maui.
The Steven Tyler Act passes through the Senate Judiciary Committee with several revisions, most notably-- one that defines "protected activities as limited to properties owned or leased". For example-- a person's home, but not their stay at a hotel. The bill now heads for a vote on the Senate floor, where Senator English says it is expected to pass and then move to the House.
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