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Everyone knows that paparazzi can be downright aggressive when it comes to chasing down celebrities, but the agencies that employ these photographers are proving themselves pugnacious in another way too.
X17, one of the leading agencies, has just filed a lawsuit against Hollywood.com, alleging that the website infringed its copyright on dozens of photographs, including pictures of actress Reese Witherspoon with ex-boyfriend and actor Jake Gyllenhaal, pictures of Britney Spears, and more.
All together, X17 is asserting that Hollywood.com engaged in at least 52 alleged acts of willful copyright infringement, and want maximum statutory damages of up to $150,000 per act, resulting in a claim of at least $7.8 million.
X17 also says that Hollywood.com is not shielded by the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because the defendant has failed to designate an agent to the Copyright Office.
This isn’t the first copyright lawsuit that X17 has pursued.
In 2007, the agency made headlines going after Perez Hilton for posting photographs without permission. After a judge refused to accept Hilton’s “fair use” defense and dismiss that case on summary judgement, it was privately settled.
The latest action by X17 is the second multimillion-dollar copyright lawsuit by a paparazzi outfit in the past month.
In October, another agency, Marvix Photo, sued Fanpop, the operator of a network of online fan clubs, for posting 21 photographs of singer Katy Perry on vacation in a bikini. In that pending lawsuit, Marvix claimed it was owed at least $3.15 million.
We said it before and we’ll say it again: The biggest threat to the continued vitality of the paparazzi market is not aggressive privacy laws that seek to punish photogs for being too intrusive, but rather a permissive online environment that threatens, for better or worse, to erode the commercial value of these images.
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