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2 YEARS

Viacom Sued for VH1 Posting of Demi Moore Photo

Pictures originally seen on TMZ are the subject of a new copyright infringement lawsuit.

Viacom Logo - H

Viacom is being sued for copyright infringement over a photo of Demi Moore that appeared on VH1's website.

The post, titled "Welcome Back, Demi Moore, Now Please Stay Away From Ashton" appears to now be down. But from traces of the post that still exist on the Internet as well as the March 6, 2012 timing of the post, it appears to be a story that riffed off of a TMZ article about Moore's release from a medical treatment facility. Although the story credited TMZ, the plaintiff is objecting to the photo of Moore that bore a TMZ stamp.

In the new lawsuit, the National Photo Group claims to be the owner of these photos and says that "Viacom copied the Photographs from the websites of NPG's Clients and reposted them on the Website without license or permission."

National Photo Group, which is in the business of licensing celebrity photos, claims statutory damages in the amount of $150,000 per infringement.

No word from the complaint about whether NPG attempted to register a takedown notice pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how Viacom might have responded to that. Of course, Viacom gets attention in copyright circles thanks to its ongoing lawsuit against YouTube, which has shaped legal precedent on issues like an ISP's responsibilities in being proactive and reactive to copyright infringement.

The lawsuit also is another sign that the owners of paparazzi images continue to be quite litigious when it comes to protecting material. Other firms like Mavrix Photo have brought one lawsuit after another against websites posting copyrighted photographs.

In the latest lawsuit, NPG says VH1's website averages approximately 2 million visitors a month, is monetized through advertisements, and that the alleged infringement has caused it to be "substantially harmed."

Viacom said it has no comment.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner