Navarre scoffed at that. "We are suing him," she said, "because he is stealing our images and costing us money every day."
Take Monday, for example. X17 had landed what it considered a major scoop: photos of the newly separated Spears kissing an unidentified man.
In an attempt to prevent unauthorized downloading of her photos, Navarre spent hours personally attaching photos in e-mails that she sent to glossy weeklies and the big infotainment TV shows. She used e-mail instead of the much faster but more vulnerable technology called FTP (file transfer protocol), which transfers the images directly into clients' computers.
"People and Us Weekly are closing today," she said Monday, "and it would have been so much faster to FTP them, but I don't want Perez Hilton to have them on his website."
No such luck.
Hilton had somehow obtained and posted the photos before X17 even had a chance to put them on its own website. "He was the first one to get those photos," Navarre said. "I am so fuming."
She said X17 can make as much as tens of thousands of dollars from one magazine on an exclusive story. In the case of the Spears smooch shot, X17 sold a two-page spread to Us Weekly, but the magazine decided to shrink the photo play (which lowered the price by $10,000, to $15,000), Navarre said she was told, because the images had already been on Hilton's site and others.
One prominent copyright attorney said it was impossible to tell who would prevail.
"Clearly, photographs are copyrighted and afforded protection; on the other hand, wide berth is given to the press to report on newsworthy events," said Century City copyright attorney David Nimmer, author of "Nimmer on Copyright." In this context, a photograph could be considered a newsworthy event.
How bloggers get unauthorized photos in the first place is baffling to the agencies, Navarre said.
"Perez gets his photographs from any number of places," said technology expert Lum, who is not involved in the procurement of photos. "I am sure there are lots of links in so many chains that somewhere along the way, there has got to be a tug here and there, which results in a photograph veering from its intended pathway."
A joint letter
As it turns out, X17 is not the only agency trying to stop its photos from veering from their intended pathways. Seven notoriously competitive paparazzo agencies have set aside their differences to send a joint cease-and-desist letter to Hilton, demanding that he stop using their photographs. They have not filed suit but are watching X17's case with interest.
"He's stealing. Simple as that," said Frank Griffin of Bauer-Griffin, which has joined forces with six other agencies. "Why doesn't Us or People just steal the photos and not pay for them? What's the difference?"
Hilton, for his part, is unrepentant.
"If the law says I am wrong, if a jury of my peers says they think my actions are wrong, then I will listen to them. But I don't think they will. Especially if they see that the person who is suing me admitted she is suing me because I am arrogant. A judge would dismiss that."
Times staff writer Jessica Garrison contributed to this report.