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Perez Hilton: Blogging Crusader or Copyright Bandito?

Perez Hilton: Blogging Crusader or Copyright Bandito?

So the USA Today ran a full length piece yesterday on celebrity hound “PerezHilton” bringing the memes of blogging and copyright to national attention. I’ll let you read the article yourself, but to summarize, PerezHilton.com is one of the hottest sites on the web right now, thanks to its celebrity gossip and photos. One recent traffic spike occurred when PerezHilton scored, and happily published, a picture of Brittany Spear’s unclothed nether regions on one of her more recent bachanalian adventures.

While the gossip is “hot”, what is drawing attention is the hundreds of photos that adorn this blog; are they taken by PerezHilton staffers? Dedicated volunteers? Mr. “Perez” himself? Hardly. The vast quantity are purloined (read: stolen) off a photo agency’s site, which, from the content of these celebrity photos, employs paparazzi.

The heart of the conflict is that the photo agency site, x17, is suing PerezHilton.com for over $7M, alleging that PerezHilton.com used without permission, payment, or credit 51 photos.

PerezHilton asserts that their use on his site — wherein they are often cropped and altered with MS Paint in a fashion that would make most 10 year old boys proud — is covered by first amendment laws and “fair use”.

Now, I am definitely no lawyer, but I find it hard to believe any of their own hype. Blogging crusader?

Please.

Looking up “fair use” in wikipedia lists four factors to consider fair use. I see that PerezHilton’s creative use of copyrighted images seems to violate at least two of them. In regards to “Purpose and Character”, its clear that PerezHilton’s photos are meant to supercede the original for personal profit, and not, say, to “advance knowledge or the progress of the arts through the addition of something new.”

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The other one involves the “Effect on a Works Value”. If the currency of the tabloid industry is photos — and I think we’ve all heard about 7 figure payouts for exclusive photos to people’s weddings and so on — then by republishing these photos clearly impacts their value.

Brandy Navarre of x17 goes on to say “Our clients have repeatedly mentioned Perez Hilton as the specific reason that they don’t want to license an image,” she said. “They have actually canceled sales or have wanted reduced prices because they have already seen the images on his Web site.”

Hey, I’m all for bloggers rights, but its obvious that what PerezHilton is doing has nothing to do with defending bloggers, and everything to do with saving his own bacon.

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