Perez Hilton: First Amendment and Blogging Crusader?

ByABC News
December 19, 2006, 4:54 AM

Dec. 19, 2006 — -- It's billed as "Hollywood's Most Hated Web Site," but in less than three years, Mario Lavandeira aka Perez Hilton has created one of the most popular and profitable celebrity news blogs.

These days, however, the chronicler of Hollywood's hotties is feeling the heat.

"I'm a polarizing figure," Hilton said, from his self-described "office" at a coffee shop on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard.

"You either love me or you hate me. There is very little in between," he said.

X17 Inc., a Los Angeles photo agency with a reputation for aggressively pursuing celebrities in their public and private moments, has filed a $7.6 million federal copyright infringement lawsuit against Hilton.

The blogger's Web site,, posts tabloid photos of celebrities and adds cheeky captions and rudimentary doodles.

The lawsuit alleges that Hilton used 51 photographs without permission, payment or credit to X17.

Brandy Navarre, co-owner of X17, said that she wasn't suing Hilton out of enmity and that it was strictly business.

"It is not at all personal," Navarre said. "We are suing for copyright infringement. He is stealing our images, and he is hurting our business."

Celebrities caught on tape or film are the bread and butter of entertainment news.

Hilton is accused of showcasing scores of X17's photos without expressed permission or payment, including those of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, Britney Spears and K-Fed, and Cameron Diaz, to name a few.

"The bottom line is we are running a business and we need to make money off of our photos or our business doesn't exist. We can't give our photos away," Navarre said.

Copyrighted material represents a good deal of the currency in the ever-expanding blogosphere.

X17 has agreements with several popular gossip blogs, including SocialiteLife and PinkIsTheNewBlog.

Navarre acknowledges that some smaller Web sites have plucked her photos without permission, as well as a few of the larger, well-known entertainment Web sites.