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California judges rarely sustain initial attempts to dismiss lawsuits without giving plaintiffs a chance to amend and try again. But celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton suffered that fate last week in an unfair competition case he filed against paparazzi photo agency X17.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanchez-Gordon ruled that Hilton does not have standing to allege X17 uses unlawful labor practices — such as classifying its photographers as independent contractors — to gain an advantage over other agencies. “We’re pleased that the court recognized the complete lack of merit in his claims and completely disposed of the case,” XI7’s attorneys at Turner Green Afrasiabi & Arledge in Costa Mesa, Calif., said in a press release. “Now we look forward to a day in the near future when Hilton will have to answer to a jury for his unauthorized use of X17’s copyrighted images.”
X17 is suing Hilton, aka Mario Lavendeira, in Federal court for illegally posting dozens of its copyrighted images on his popular PerezHilton.com website.
Hilton’s attorney Bryan Freedman of Freedman & Taitleman in Century City, disagrees with the decision. He says the judge relied on an “out of date” court declaration in which Hilton said his website does not compete with X17. The agency now publishes blog-style postings complete with celebrity photos on its website and, Freedman contends, the judge should have allowed Hilton to amend his complaint to reflect that new evidence.
“There’s no question this will be overturned [on appeal],” he said in a phone interview. “To sustain an initial demurrer without leave to amend is almost unheard of.”
As for the copyright infringement suit, Freedman is planning to file a motion for summary dismissal in the next few weeks based on the theory that X17 does not own valid copyrights on the images Hilton allegedly ripped off.
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