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The unwanted pictures snapped by celebrity paparazzi are a popular target for privacy lawsuits. Suddenly camera-shy celebrities are quick to file suit when they feel intruded upon.
A lesser-known suit in the photo mix is when media outlets use paparazzi photographs without the photographer's permission. The latest example of this is the recent suit against MSNBC for the company's use of a paparazzi's pregnant Penelope Cruz photos.
Celebrity photo agency Mavrix Photo alleges copyright infringement against MSNBC for their use of the copyrighted images of Cruz while on set of the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. Much more important than the movie was the fact that the images proved some much speculated gossip about the actress -- her pregnancy.
The movie is due to be released in December, 2011. No birth due date has been announced yet by Cruz. In fact, at this point the actress has not yet confirmed a pregnancy. News of celebrity pregnancies is big business for paparazzi, so it is no wonder that the suit against MSNBC may end up costing the media giant big bucks.
Copyright gives the owner of a photograph (in this case the paparazzi) the sole right to publish the image. The infringement is fairly straightforward -- MSNBC did not have the rights to the photographs and they were using the images to break a very big story. Generally, the maximum statutory damages for an act of copyright infringement is $150,000. Since the images were widely disseminated online, Mavrik could also argue that there were many acts of infringement.