The celebrity picture-taking industry is notoriously cutthroat, with photographers competing against one other -- sometimes physically -- to snap the juiciest photos and score lucrative exclusives they can sell to magazines and websites. But the digital age, and especially the explosion of apps for mobile devices, has made the once-simple transaction between photographer and publication a lot more complicated, leading to new questions about how much a paparazzo's shot is worth -- and how many times he should be paid for it.

Content providers of all stripes have long fought to get paid for their work. But photo agencies in particular are facing a financial crunch due to the recession, a severe drop in magazine and online ad revenues, and diminished print space to feature those hard-won celebrity shots.

I Already Paid. No, You Didn't

Now competing companies are doing something crazy -- working together. To wit: as The Hollywood Reporter revealed earlier this week, more than a dozen paparazzi services have joined together to prevent People magazine (TWX) -- which famously shelled out $14 million for exclusive rights to the first photos of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's baby in 2007 -- from licensing their photos on the magazine's iPad app.

People wants the photos for free, claiming the app is merely an extension of the print product and that the photos essentially serve as a marketing tool, not new content that must be additionally paid for. The photo agencies, as you might guess, disagree, and say they might pull their sought-after photos from circulation if they don't get their way.

As a result, People's app, which was supposed to debut this month priced at $4.99, has now been postponed indefinitely. (A spokesperson for People did not return a request for comment, but did tell THR that "the People iPad application launch date has absolutely nothing to do with photo agencies.")

Making an Example of Perez Hilton

Brandy Navarre, vice president of the photo agency and celebrity website X17 (which is negotiating separately from its competitor consortium on the People iPad app), has had ample experience on the digital photo rights front. The agency sued popular gossip website in 2006 for excessive copyright infringement of its images.

"We really felt was absolutely necessary to set a precedent and to educate the public, frankly, in copyright law in digital age," Navarre tells DailyFinance. "There are plenty of people using images, smaller websites that could grow larger like, [who] genuinely didn't know the law and were uneducated where these things were concerned. But [the lawsuit] was also a bit of a warning for larger companies who should and do know the law and continue to skirt it."

The case was settled out of court in February of 2008, and Hilton has not used any of X17's images since. Navarre also said that X17 has seen "a drastic reduction in. . .copyright infringement on Internet."

So far, Navarre hasn't devoted a lot of time and energy to parse rights clearances for the ever-multiplying array of mobile devices, because the revenue stream still isn't significant for X17. Knowing full well that may change in the future, she says "it doesn't make sense to overcomplicate [rights matters] to the point where you are producing so much work for both sides to track usage, the money spent outweighs the money you're going to make."

The New Marketplace Realities

As the People iPad app kerfuffle suggests, similar complications will only continue to grow. "It looks like it's Tasini all over again," says copyright and intellectual property lawyer Lloyd Jassin, referring to the 2001 Supreme Court decision that determined newspapers could not license work by freelancers in electronic databases such as Lexis-Nexis. "Regarding how it is played out, fees and/ or revenue-sharing will have to be recalibrated to reflect new marketplace realities."

Content producers, meanwhile, are starting to weigh serious cost-benefit considerations. "I honestly see a day where we won't track all of that stuff," says Navarre."Eventually, rights will be rights, and magazines will be able to use [photos] across any platform, even if they may have to pay more. The way it's gone for past two years, with prices dipping lower, people just aren't able or willing to give away rights. It's not a fun time for any of us right now."

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How to Avoid Financial Scams

Avoid getting duped by financial scams.

View Course »

Intro to Retirement

Get started early planning for your long term future.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

WHO CARES ? ABOUT THESE PEOPLE...... ? not worth a cent !

August 21 2010 at 2:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Id rhwy waited on me to buy a mag for a pix they would all go out of business. My daughter spend's a fortune on movie mag's though.

August 20 2010 at 10:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

i wrote about putting a smoking band in frount of store this morning, i hav c.o.p.d. and on oxygen from years of smoking, it is a real nasty habit and a deadly one, i see people standing at the doors smoking and people walking in the store with little kids in tow or babies who have to walk past that nasty smell, i never knew how bad it smelled if the states can ban smoking in restrant and places that sell food, than this smoking band should go in to law as the CINDI GLAIM law, no smoking with in 50 feet of the stores doors with all the cameras on the stores now it can be stoped and they should be fined no less than $50.00, let get this band going, instead of another vacation and talk about overeating and eating better, lets start with a better smelling store entrance, thank-you cindi glaim mulberry,fl. 33860, i will do this every day if i have to untill someone does something...

August 20 2010 at 8:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Paparazzi are little more than paid stalkers and as useful to society as STD's or mosquitoes, and their threat to withhold their photos is a completely empty threat. People magazine(hell, all magazines more respectable than the Enquirer)ought to refuse to use their pictures and begin using reputable photographers, of which there are many who would love to have their work showcased. I'd also be willing to bet that the "stars" would be more than willing to give exclusives to those reputable photographers if it meant they, and their families, were no longer subject to ambush by the dirtbag paparazzi stalkers.

August 20 2010 at 4:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sethjj1975's comment
Mark Lathom

Damn straight, lets not even get into what happened to Princess Diana. Paparazzi are bottom feeders livning off the fame of others.

August 20 2010 at 9:03 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

If people are going to continue to pour over the lives of celebrities, then these classless people will always have a job. Similarly, if you continue to pay people millions of dollars for playing a GAME, your ticket prices will continue to go up. Or better still, if you continue to watch terrible shows like the Bachelor or Jersey Shore, they'll continue to make more of them. Who's more to blame, the producers or the consumers?

August 20 2010 at 3:41 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

What a crock. Paparazzi thinks they should get paid for taking a picture of a celeb. Why? They didn't do one thing to deserve a dime - it's the celebs picture so if anyone should get paid it's the celeb. That would also stop paparazzi stalking. I don't know why celebs don't ban together and patent their own image making it illegal to take their picture without their permission. Ever since Angelina gave certain rights to People mag the other mags have been resorting to trashing her in the media and reworking interviews so it looks like over exposure.

August 20 2010 at 12:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

It should be illegal to sell photos of anybody for use to make money without their written approval. You want to sell my picture? First get a release from me. Give it away without payment. Sure. Sell it no. That would stop most of this activity. You print it for sale in any media, You better have the signed release or get sued up to your eyeballs.

August 20 2010 at 11:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Hey, Dude

Personally, I think they're all a bunch of money grubbing opportunists who THINK they have the right to invade people's privacy for a big, fat paycheck. The magazines are idiots for paying the stalk-arazzi one thin dime, and the loathesome stalk-arazzi are just as their name implies...they're stalkers. As for the people who buy the magazines--the way they further promote this disgusting behavior seems to indicate that they must have some seriously shallow, empty lives to depend so heavily on these magazines printing photos of celebrities that are so often nothing but an invasion of their privacy. Here's a novel idea, People...ask the celebrity for an interview, let your own photographer take a few photos of those who agree to be interviewed, and stop the tasteless habit of encouraging the stalk-arazzi. Oh, and People? Could you please explain to us why photos of Angelina Joilie's illegitimate children are worth 14 million dollars? The only people who care about those photos are the aforementioned people with shallow, empty lives. There are so many more important issues to deal with in this day and age, what with the government trying to take away all civil rights from American tax payers, while trying to force us to give all of our rights away to the immigrants who hate us for believing in God. These magazines need to put their publications to a better use--educate the public to the plight of the American tax people how Christians and Jews are becoming the minority in our own something helpful. As for the stalk-arazzi, I say make them a law-breaking criminal when they snap invasive photos of celebrities. Not to defend the over paid Hollywood crowd, because I have little sympathy for those who make millions of dollars for playing make-believe...but as tax paying citizens, they should be allowed to have their privacy protected from the stalkers with cameras. Needless to say, you won't catch me buying a copy of any tabloid magazine that pays a paparazzi for a photo--and I'm not just talking abaout The Enquirer or The Star...I'm talking about People, and all the paparazzi supporting rag mags like them. Everyone needs to put their time and money to a better use than the utter garbage the paparazzi produces...this obsession with celebrity types is ridiculous and offensive to intellgent, thinking people.

August 20 2010 at 10:51 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

It's crazy the money photographers are paid to snap celebrity photos. And even crazier the number of celebrity fans that purchase magazines those photos end up in. Celebrities feed off publicity, even the ones who feel violated by the photographers. The amount of money a magazine pays for a set of photos in no ways defines their rights to the photos. The photographers should retain their copy rights, but allow the use of the photos in publications for an agreed upon fee. I stopped buying rag magazines years ago, they got so expensive it wasn't worth the cost.

August 20 2010 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The paparazzi are a bunch of heathens. They are the scum of the earth. They should lose their licenses. Period.

August 20 2010 at 10:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply