If you could sell photos of your baby for $1 million, would you do it?
Jennifer Lopez, who hasn't had a hit record or movie in several years, is close to selling her baby photos for $4-$6 million to People magazine, according to Advertising Age. People recently paid an estimated $1.5 million to B-list singer Christina Aguilera for exclusive shots of her new son, Max.
Lopez is just the latest in a long line of celebrities and the almost famous to sell the first photos of their babies to magazines and supermarket tabloids. From Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt to Britney Spears to Nicole Richie and Joel Madden to Tori Spelling, more and more stars are making deals to control the inevitable media coverage of their children and put some cash in their pockets.
But is it expected or exploitative for celebrity parents who face aggressive media coverage of their every move to peddle photos of their children to the highest bidder?
Some ethicists and child psychologists are disturbed by the practice, which treads the nexus of money, parenthood and fame.
"If your own parents are literally selling you out, where can one feel safe?" asks Dr. Bruce Weinstein, a syndicated ethics columnist. "What's especially troubling is that the person who's the subject of these photos isn't able to give informed consent. I could image that person being really troubled by it."
Weinstein isn't swayed by the rationale offered by celebrities, that it's a way for them to control the inevitable media maelstrom. "If you look at what happened with Britney Spears or Angelina Jolie, [selling the photos] didn't quell the feeding frenzy. Whether People or OK gets first dibs, people still want to take photos of the child."
And he isn't impressed with the fact that some stars have contributed some of the baby bonanza to charity, such as Jolie and Pitt, who gave $2 million of a reported $4 million windfall to Global Action for Children and Doctors Without Borders.
Weinstein cited St. Paul's letter to the Romans: "We are not to do evil that good may come from it" to explain his argument.
"If you're already starting from extreme wealth, that argument doesn't hold much water," he says. "They're already in a position to give money to charity."
Child psychologist Sam Hackworth says that the practice could be troubling depending on the circumstances and the ego of the parent.
"If kids understand that the parent did it to control the photos, they can see that as a rational reason," says Hackworth. "But if it was clearly just to make money, if a child's older and realizes that the only way we've maintained this lifestyle is because you sold my photos, that could be troubling."
David T.S. Fraser, a privacy lawyer in Nova Scotia, Canada, says that while he sympathizes with celebrities who are trying to deal with out-of-control paparazzi, the practice of selling baby photos actually seems to have the opposite effect.
"If anything it probably feeds the market for these photos," he explains. "The other magazines will want to compete and could be even more aggressive."