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Hawaii's Senate passes Steven Tyler Act celebrity privacy bill

Steven Tyler attends the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscars Party in West Hollywood, California February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Steven Tyler attends the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscars Party in West Hollywood, California February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

By Malia Mattoch McManus

HONOLULU (Reuters) - The Hawaii state Senate has approved legislation named for Aerosmith rocker Steven Tyler that would make it easier for celebrities to sue paparazzi and others they see as invading their privacy.

Tyler, 64, who lives part-time on the Hawaiian island of Maui, testified on behalf of the bill, which supporters say will make the state more attractive to the rich and famous. Opponents criticize the measure as vague and potentially unconstitutional.

The measure would allow celebrities to sue anyone who "attempts to capture, in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person, any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff engaging in a personal or familial activity on land owned or leased by the plaintiff."

The Steven Tyler Act cleared the Senate on Tuesday with only two of the body's 25 members voting against it. The proposal now goes to the state House of Representatives.

"Public figures, such as celebrities, already have a diminished expectation of privacy," Hawaii Senate Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee wrote in support of the bill. "Thus, private moments while vacationing and engaged in activities with family and friends are even more precious for public figures."

Appearing beside drummer Mick Fleetwood from the rock band Fleetwood Mac, Tyler told a Senate panel that he accepted being photographed in public but resented paparazzi using telephoto lenses to shoot him when he was inside his house.

"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 shooting with lenses this long, and then see that very picture in People magazine, it hurts," Tyler said.

Hawaii's attorney general, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Society of Professional Journalists all have opposed the bill. Governor Neil Abercrombie and the Hawaii Tourism Authority support it.

Media lawyer Jeff Portnoy said the legislation was highly problematic.

"It's a bill that's simply pandering to some washed-up celebrities at a time when the Hawaii legislature should be focusing on some much more significant issues that affect all of us," he told Reuters on Wednesday.

"Celebrities have more than adequate protection under Hawaii criminal and civil law for the behavior this is supposed to deter," Portnoy said.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Xavier Briand)

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