Bloggers Beware: Legal Precedent can Limit your Content

Perez Hilton, a popular blogger, uses myriad celebrity photos to dramatize satirical opinions about celeb's well publicized habits, practices and mishaps. White marks and writing cover some of the photos: emphasizing tattoos, drawing glasses and questionable white stains sticking to the corner of mouths.

Several qestions arises because, well, Hilton isn’t a photographer: Where does he get his photos? And how much do they cost? Well, the smut comes from an online, freelance paparazzi company, X17. This fact isn’t apparent on and has created an issue for X17, forcing them to bring a lawsuit on Hilton.

X17's litigation on Hilton, aka Mario Lavandeira, has the potential to effect bloggers and vloggers through out the United States.

Hilton has used over fifty copyrighted photographs on his young and flourishing site. “Pregnant Katie Holmes,” “Britney Spears Exposes her Derriere,” and Britney Exposes herself Again” are just a few which revel a great deal about the site's themes.

Ok! Markings and a sardonic spin on these photos protect Hilton under “Fair use” right? Then why is X17 suing him?

Brandy Navarre, Co-owner of X17 said, “[b]ecause he is stealing our images and costing us money every day.” They go on to explain they had to reduce the price of some photos by $10,000 to $15,000 dollars. The trashy magazines which buy their crap decreases usage because the photos were posted on Hiltons site.

This little fact is a serious issue and has potential to impacts Hilton’s defense.

Copyright law, based in Common Law, gives copyright holders several rights: reproduction, prepare derivatives, perform publicly and distribution, which protects only original works.

But based in the First Amendment, there are several uses constituting Fair Use of this material. Satire and significant alteration are the two, which Hilton claimed, protected him from infringement.

Fair Use’s is evaluated on several factors: effect on market value or potential marketability, purpose of use portion used and nature of the work. The Market value reduction, X17 claims, supports their position.

The case has been settled with an out of court agreement between the two. The settlement hasn't been discussed in public; however, Hilton has discontinued to used X17 photos on his site and removed all posted.

The out of court settlement is great news for bloggers. If the court ruled in favor of X17 "The effect would be to eliminate the ability to comment on and transform photographs under the fair-use exception to the Copyright Act," said Hilton's attorney, Bryan Freedman of Century City.

Despite the sophistication and vast history of copyright law, it’s application to internet law is young and underdeveloped. Cases like this will determine how the internet will be regulated and is a concern for all bloggers. A great source to stay current on internet law and other legal issues that affect our use of new media.


Kurt said...

Very interesting case here Kevin. You've outlined the copyright considerations clearly. In my view, Perez violated copyright because he really didn't alter or remix them in a significant way, they were initially posted on the other site with clear copyright notification and reproducing then on the P Hilton definitely reduces their potential value to other media outlets.BTW, B Spears looks pretty hot in this post! No video?

Grade - 5

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