Meetthefamous.com -- Inspired or Invasion of Privacy?
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.
| March 31, 2009; 11:05 AM ET
Categories: Celebrities, Extreme Fans
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