Feb 092013
 February 9, 2013  Posted by  Laws

I’ve previously mentioned a bill in the Hawaii senate that would protect celebrities’ privacy, the Steven Tyler Act (yes, that Steven Tyler).

Yesterday, there was a hearing on the bill.  The Associated Press reported on the hearing and it sounds like lawmakers there couldn’t do enough to fawn over Tyler and other celebrities who support the bill.  The mental image of state senators applauding someone testifying before them about a bill is somewhat embarrassing, actually.

The AP also reports that:

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.

I have not found the revised language for S.B. 465 online yet, but it’s nice to know that if you have enough money, you can hire a lawyer to write a law to protect your privacy. Whether the new law will protect the peons, too, and whether it will trash some First Amendment press protections remains to be seen. According to the AP coverage, the revised language, if it follows the California model, might permit lawsuits against “media outlets that pay for and make first use of material they knew was improperly obtained.” So if they don’t pay, but just make use of, there’s no private cause of action in the bill?

Senators also added an amendment to exempt law enforcement authorities, who use telephoto lenses and other such equipment during investigations.

Not that they’ve bent over backwards or anything, but the committee chair Hee “said he wants to move the bill straight to the Senate floor and to the House “in deference and in agreement with” Tyler.” That is, it seems, if Tyler’s lawyer doesn’t want revisions or further amendments to it.

Getting less consideration than the rich and famous are the media and the First Amendment. The bill is opposed by the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Press Photographers Association. The latter 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.

So.. how much privacy can you afford to buy in your state legislature?

Everyone should have privacy rights, and this blog has always maintained that celebrities do not lose all their privacy rights by virtue of their celebrity status. But writing a law in reaction to one incident is an approach that often results in poorly thought-out legislation that creates as many problems as it solves. Let’s see what the revised bill text looks like when it becomes available.  And let’s look at it from the perspective of the majority of the public and whether their privacy rights are protected without sacrificing the First Amendment.

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