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Posted at 11:05 AM ET, 03/31/2009

Meetthefamous.com -- Inspired or Invasion of Privacy?

By Liz Kelly

Screengrab of Meetthefamous.com.

You're innocently loitering on a London street when you spot what appears to be a tipsy George Clooney. Or maybe you capture Penelope Cruz in a less than glamorous moment. Or perhaps you have an old pix of tweener heartthrob Zac Efron before "High School Musical" made him a star.

In potentially horrifying news to many celebrities, a new Web site will pay you for all of the above. Meetthefamous.com, launched last fall, has quietly been picking up steam as a go-to site for aspiring paparazzi. Almost overnight, digital cameras and photo- and video-enabled cell phones have made celebrity news one of the first areas of news in which the idea of citizen journalism has actually caught on.

"What I've done is created a home for everybody to be the paparazzi," said Meet the Famous CEO Jordan Osher, who underscores his contributors ability to go where the real paparazzi can't follow stars. "[They can] share their celebrity encounters with the world and get paid for it."

Osher says the site now receives at least 50 photos each day and has amassed 16,000 images in their first five months of operation. Here's how it works: You have taken what you think is a marketable celebrity photo (or video). Upload that photo to Meetthefamous.com and you'll get $5 for every 1,000 pageviews that photo receives. If it's featured on the site's homepage, there's a $25 bonus. And, if the picture is sold to a magazine, tabloid or any other public venue, you'll receive a 50 percent commission.

And, Osher says, sales have been surprisingly lucrative. Recent sales have included a decade-old picture of a pre-"300" Gerard Butler to Life & Style and another of recent tabloid fave Rihanna.

"We got a picture of Rihanna getting a tattoo, kind of pulling her pants down," said Osher. "It's a really cool photo, really sexy -- everybody was all over that."

Brandon Downey is set to graduate from Rutgers University this spring, but he's also one of Meet the Famous's most reliable contributors. Posting as LaBellaVida7, the part-time subsitute teacher who aspires to be the "anti-Perez Hilton" has posted 120 photos to the site so far, including this vintage pic of a seemingly drunk Britney Spears in New York (Downey gets most of his snaps in New York and Philadelphia). A huge Spears fan, Downey says he turned down a $30,000 offer from the National Enquirer to publish the photo five or six years ago, but has since posted it online because his ideals have changed.

"I wish I had [sold the photo]," said Downey. "It would've paid off most of my college. I was kind of naive back then."

Downey's personal evolution seems to track with the public's increased consumption of what can be viewed as invasive coverage of stars. Celebs -- including Clooney and Julia Roberts -- have taken tough stances on the paparazzi and Los Angeles even briefly considered a Britney Law that would have created a 20-yard "safety bubble" around celebrities. The law was proposed after an ambulance transporting Spears to the hospital was besieged by photographers. And blog empire Gawker was criticized in 2006 when it launched Gawker Stalker, a Google map-enabled site that lets anyone geocode celebrity sightings. (Ex: "Just saw matthew broderick walking on 31st and park. He was with a blonde young model and not SJP." -- Mar 29th, 2009 @ 2pm.)

Osher says he doesn't think Meet the Famous will cause a further erosion of celebrities' personal space.

"Nothing we do encourages any illegal behavior. If you're at a bar and you see Paris Hilton doing a shot and you have your camera, you can take a picture. Whether they come to Meet the Famous or go directly to TMZ, it's gonna get out there."

The privacy line has been increasingly difficult to pinpoint with the advent of publicists who call ahead to alert paparazzi to their celeb's every move and stars like Ashton Kutcher, who recently posted this pic of wife Demi Moore's derriere on Twitter.

"What we've done is create a platform for the everyday person who doesn't know what to do with their photos," said Osher. "They can come here and profit off of it and in this economy it's a second source of income for some people."

Maybe someone should tell Ashton.

By Liz Kelly  | March 31, 2009; 11:05 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Extreme Fans  
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Comments

I LIKE it! Now if I ever saw anyone famous doing anything comprimising, I'd totally post it to that site. Unfortunately, doesn't happen much to me. But if they want pictures of snipers on top of the Mayflower Hotel, I'm their girl!

Posted by: eet7e | March 31, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I'm too slow on the draw to ever get a shot of a celebrity behaving badly - "Could you please hold that pose for a few minutes while I figure out how to work my *($&#%% phone's &#^%*#^%*#($&%& camera? Thanks!" - but I think Mr. Osher is right, this won't further erode celeb privacy. He's also right that he's competing with TMZ: celebrity candids are already a commodity, he's just providing a marketplace.

Gawker Stalker was a step too far, though.

Posted by: northgs | March 31, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

On the surface it does sound creepy but I guess it is really no different than businesses using nonceleb photos of Joe Blow for their purposes without permission. I wish ep was still around to tell us the law on that, b/c I wonder why sometimes they cover eyes w/black bars or fuzz up someone's face. A photographer once used a wedding shot of me with my flower-girl as their advertisement for years but they didn't seek my permission or give me anything for it. My brother-in-laws family picture was used in an advertising circular without their knowledge or permission.
Otherwise, the Lawrence family once stayed in the bungalo next to us in Hawaii and I have a great shot of Joey Lawrence (when he still had hair) stepping out of the ocean. Also have a pic of me and Dr Oz with his arm around me. He was totally mugging for the camera. Don't think I would get much for either pic but they do have a little sentimental value.

Posted by: hodie | March 31, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"the part-time subsitute teacher who aspires to be the 'anti-Perez Hilton'"

- Now that we know your name, Brandon Downey, I'm sure you'll never become a full-time substitute teacher.

- And if you're trying to be the "anti-Perez Hilton" why would you post 120 photos to a celebrity website?

Posted by: mdreader01 | March 31, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I still have moments of quiet reflection over that photo about 6 yrs ago of a naked (and semi-erect) Brad Pitt standing on a hotel balcony.

Posted by: chunche | March 31, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Hodie-
As a photographer (NOT a lawyer, so consult your attorney) I can give you my understanding of the law.
Photos of people may not be used to advertise ANYTHING without that person's permission, usually in the form of a model release. So, for example, Dewar's couldn't use that "drunk" picture of George Clooney to advertise their product without getting permission (and likely paying George a large sum of money).
Any photo taken in a public place may be used in an editorial format - like accompanying an article saying "Here's a photo of Eliot Spitzer sneaking into the Mayflower with a prostitute" or even "Here's a photo of George Clooney looking drunk."
As far as wedding photographers using images from weddings they have shot, there is usually a line in the contract the couple signs saying that images from the wedding may be used in the photographer's portfolio, website, and/or advertising, so photos of the couple are okay for the photographer to use. I'm not sure about the flower girl and/or other family members. I would probably not use them unless I got signed model releases from those additional people. Then again, you don't always know until later that an image will be included in your marketing, so to be truly safe you'd have to get model releases from every person at every wedding you shoot, which would become cumbersome very quickly! If I shot weddings, I would consult with a lawyer on this one.
As far as why magazines or tv shows blur faces or put boxes over "people on the street" images, I think it's usually to try not to embarrass those people too much (although I'm sure we'd all recognize ourselves in the "Don't" photograph if we were in one anyway. If it's in an advertisement, it means they weren't able to get a signed model release from that person, or that person refused to sign the model release.
Hope that helps.

Posted by: talleyl | March 31, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Sounds to me like they don't pay much...

Posted by: msame | March 31, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the enlightenment talley, makes sense.

Posted by: hodie | March 31, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Love this website and concept. How have I not heard of this before? I have a feeling this is going to be the next "Twitter" addiction. Gotta run (and dust off my camera!!)

Posted by: markorange45 | March 31, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I said it before and I'll say it again. That is an ALLEGED photo of Demi Moore's butt. Unless, of course, the Defamer got a model release from Demi Moore's butt. I do not think that since there is no black square over it we can just assume it is Demi Moore's butt. It is definitely a butt, but we have no proof that it is Demi Moore's. Unless you believe Ashton.

Posted by: reddragon1 | March 31, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't want to be anywhere nearby when Demi Moore's butt made a release.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | March 31, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Um, okay, a bit off topic for this thread, but Andy Hallett - aka Lorne on "Angel" - died yesterday of heart failure at 33. :(

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-andy-hallett1-2009apr01,0,319761.story

He developed cardiomyopathy back in 2004 from an untreated dental infection, and has apparently been in and out of the hospital with heart problems since.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | March 31, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Oh wow, that is pretty cool stuff dude!

RT
www.anonymity.us.tc

Posted by: clermontpc | April 2, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I wrote something like this for twitter and called it spotd. (http://www.twitter.com/spotd) but have not yet activated the listener service because I wasn't sure if anyone would use it or if i wanted to be part of the problem. It acts like the chicago tamale tracker (twitter.com/tamaletracker). Basically, you see something/someone tweet about it and then it gets retweeted on the spotd account. I dunno, just putting that out there.

Posted by: lunch | April 2, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break, this new website isn't going to "further erode celebrities'personal space"? What's it going to do, lessen it? I think the founder of this website wants the world to believe that so he can sleep better at night. The paparazzi industry needs serious reform before a celebrity can't even walk down the street without a horde of professional and so-called "citizen" paparazzi stalking them. The PAPARAZZI Reform Initiative has been launched to educate people on what really goes on when the paparazzi stalk celebrities. www.paparazzi-reform.org

Posted by: genburmail | April 6, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

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