The world was treated to “Gimme More” this summer. But Perez Hilton may have given his readers too much, too soon. Zomba Recording LLC, which is owned by Sony BMG, filed a federal copyright-infringement lawsuit Thursday against the online gossip purveyor, saying that over the past three months he illegally posted at least 10 new Britney Spears tracks, both completed cuts and unfinished demos, on perezhilton.com.
“The unauthorized dissemination of recordings is a serious violation of copyright law,” said a Zomba spokesperson. “In addition, posting demos and unfinished songs as if they were final versions is grossly unfair to the artist and misleading to the public.”
Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, did not immediately comment on the allegations. His laywer, Bryan Freedman, suggested the blogger was being singled out for “publicity” and “will be vigorously defended.”
In a separate announcement Zomba revealed the cover art and track list for Blackout. The album will feature 12 cuts: “Gimme More”; “Piece of Me”; “Radar”; “Break the Ice”; “Heaven on Earth”; “Get Naked (I Got a Plan)”; ” Freakshow”; “Toy Soldier”; “Hot as Ice”; “Ooh Ooh Baby”; “Perfect Lover”; and “Why Should I Be Sad.”
Of all the tunes intended for Spears’ upcoming studio album, Blackout, only “Gimme More,” which Spears infamously performed at the MTV Video Music Awards last month, has been given a legitimate release. The song’s video officially premiered online Friday on iTunes and on air Monday on TRL, but was leaked to YouTube days earlier.
Looking to avoid any more Internet poaching, Jive Records announced Wednesday it was bumping up Blackout’s release date from Nov. 11 to Oct. 30.
“The label is doing everything possible to prevent and avoid any further illegal distribution of songs,” the label said in a statement.
According to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Zomba, which owns the rights to Spears’ tunes, is asking for unspecified real and punitive damages from Hilton, as well as legal costs. Spears is not a party to the action.
The embattled blogger is currently the target of several complaints, including a defamation suit filed in July by club deejay Samantha Ronson. The Lindsay Lohan pal claims Hilton and the Website CelebrityBabylon both falsely reported she had purposely left cocaine in the starlet’s car in May, when Lohan was busted for DUI after a single-car accident.
Hilton said that his inclusion in the Ronson suit was “without merit and publicity seeking.”
His attorney told a judge a few weeks ago that Hilton was merely commenting on an “issue of public interest” by suggesting that Ronson may have owned the cocaine found in Lohan’s Mercedes.
Ronson’s camp argued that perezhilton.com operates “10 levels below the National Enquirer” and that he didn’t have qualms about reporting allegations that other news outlets wouldn’t touch.
Hilton moved to dismiss the suit on grounds that it was filed to intimidate and quash his right to exercise free speech, but the court wants to know more.
Over the defense’s objections, L.A. Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle on Wednesday granted a request from Ronson’s lawyers to depose Hilton, directing them to limit their questioning to whether the plaintiff is a public figure, meaning there would be an extra burden on her part to prove that Hilton knowingly or recklessly published false statements about her.
Hilton’s attorneys are arguing that Ronson, who admits to being in the car on May 26 when Lohan drove it into a curb on Sunset Blvd., willingly injected herself into the public eye by palling around with Lohan in the first place.
First on Ronson’s list of offenders was Sunset Photo and News Agency exec Jill Ishkanian, who operates CelebrityBabylon. The complaint alleges that Ishkanian’s site first defamed Ronson by reporting that she had planted drugs in Lohan’s car and then made a monetary deal with the paparazzi to set up a shot of the actress looking completely out of it the night after the crash–all of which Ronson has denied.
“I am not now and have never been a drug user,” she stated in an affidavit filed on her behalf on Sept. 13. “I have never handled or touched cocaine. I did not ever place any cocaine at any place at any time.”
She also stated that she “never entered into any agreement with anyone, photograph agency or anyone, to tip them off to Lindsay Lohan’s whereabouts.”
According to her lawsuit, Hilton then posted the allegedly false items on his site on June 1, also writing that Ronson was “toxic” influence in Lohan’s life and that he had taken to wearing a sweatshirt reading “Blame Samantha.”
“What this defendant said was a total fabrication,” Ronson’s attorney, Martin Gabus, told Berle at a Sept. 26 hearing. “Everything here is made up.”
A hearing on Hilton’s dismissal request has been postponed until Nov. 1 to give Ronson’s attorneys time to weigh the value of the gossip-slinger’s deposition.
Meanwhile, Ishkanian’s attorney, Maurice Wainer, told Berle that his client has reached a settlement agreement with Ronson, and Gabus said that the suit against the Sunset Photo boss, who has also agreed to print a retraction, was primed for dismissal.
Which would leave Hilton alone to face the elements, which have gotten harsher over the last couple years.
Celebrity photo agency X17 filed a $7.5 million copyright suit against him in November 2006 for using its pictures without permission, to which Hilton replied, “I believe at the core of my being that I’m not doing anything illegal or unethical. They have their points, and I have my points, so I guess the only way to decide this is through the legal system.”
Then Universal City Studios Productions sued him in February for “misappropriating and illegally copying” a topless photo of Jennifer Aniston that was taken on, and then swiped from, the set of the 2005 comedy The Break-Up.
Attorney Bryan J. Freedman said in a statement at the time that his client’s use of the pic for “commentary and satire” constituted fair use.