Perez Hilton, Paparazzi Agency Chill Out with Settlement of 'Hot News' ClaimWed Feb 13, 2008 @ 12:48AM PST
Posted by Matthew Heller
The parties reached a confidential settlement with Hilton's motion for summary judgment pending and without resolving the issue of whether his online publication of "hot" celebrity photos deprived X17 of its ability to scoop its competition. Hilton, also known as Mario Lavandeira, had argued that a hot news claim applies only to written words and data, but a Los Angeles judge ruled in February 2007 that the tort is "conceptually broad enough to include photographs."
The summary judgment motion, filed in December, focuses mostly on X17's claims of copyright infringement, arguing that the applications for copyright registration on the disputed photos are invalid. The applications identified X17 as the "author" of the photos under the "work for hire" doctrine, the motion says, but that representation was "entirely false" because the paparazzi who work for X17 are independent contractors, not employees.
Photographers also testified, according to Hilton, that they only signed agreements assigning their rights to X17 "in order to assist X17 in the pending lawsuit against Lavandeira."
On the hot news claim, Hilton attorney Bryan Freedman argued that X17 could not show Hilton was a direct competitor and had not provided "any evidence to support the proposition that Lavendeira is driving X17 out of business."
Neither Freedman nor X17 counsel John Tehranian responded to requests for comment on the settlement. Hilton still faces a copyright infringement and unfair competition suit filed by five other photo agencies which is set for trial in December. But he recently won $8,500 in attorneys fees from Lindsay Lohan's friend over a failed defamation claim.