Aug. 7, 2009 — -- Word to the wise: While you may want to share Vanessa Hudgens' topless photos with all your friends and family, you'd be wise not to post them on your blog.
Or your Facebook page. Or your Twitter feed. Or on any square inch of Internet, whether or not it belongs to you.
Legal experts agree that anyone spreading semi-nude photos of the 20-year-old star of the "High School Musical" movies and the upcoming "Bandslam" is liable to face a lawsuit.
Hudgens' legal team tried to hammer home that point earlier this week.
"The photographs that surfaced on various Internet sites yesterday were old photos taken by Ms. Hudgens years ago within her home," Hudgens' attorney, Christopher Wong, told ABCNews.com in a statement. According to E! Online, the newly leaked pictures were taken before Hudgens' first nude photo scandal in 2007.
"She was a minor at the time," Wong continued. "We have reason to believe that the photographs were obtained through illegal or improper means and then posted anonymously on the Internet. We asked the blog sites to take them down because posting such photographs of a minor is illegal, improper and offensive, violates her privacy rights, and infringes other legal rights in and to the photos."
Some blogs, including PerezHilton.com and WWTDD.com, obliged. Others, like Egotastic.com, still had the photos up as of Thursday evening. If images of Hudgens' naked body were a matter of national importance, the latter group of sites might be in the right.
"If you got a hold of video or photographs of someone in a private situation and it was a matter of breaking news or public concern, then you would be protected in publishing them," explained Ted Boutros, an attorney with Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, who is versed in first amendment law.
But, it's bad news for those hot for Hudgens: "The fact that the public might be interested in seeing these photos isn't enough," Boutros said.
And, since no one but Hudgens can claim ownership of the photos, it's illegal for anyone -- people who own blogs; people who comment on blogs; people, period -- to publish the images on the Internet.
"If the blog itself, or the owner of the blog, posts a photograph that it doesn't own, they're violating somebody's ownership," said Scott L. Vernick, a partner with Fox Rothschild LLP and an expert in intellectual property law. "When you post something on a blog as Jane Q. Citizen, then the onus is on you, not on the blog, and the law can prosecute you."
What's more, blogs hosting Hudgens' photos are guilty of using her likeness for commercial purpose -- few things boost a site's traffic and ad revenue like a batch of semi-nude photos -- without her permission.
"Separate from the issues associated with copyright law, you're not allowed to use someone's picture for commercial purpose without their permission and use it to make money," Vernick said.
Had Hudgens been the victim of a peeping Tom, like ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, the photos could remain on the Internet forever, even if she filed a lawsuit and won. Luckily, Hudgens' hand held the camera and snapped the photos, so she gets to decree where they go.
"The law currently gives a billion percent immunity to let Web sites behave as badly as they want to," explained Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender, an online reputation management and privacy company. "Only when the copyright owner comes along does the site have to back down. If by chance you took the picture, you win."