Perez meets Paris

West Hollywood - The internet is the great equalizer. In the past there were hurdles and gatekeepers for most people to have their words and photos published. Not anymore.

A once obscure blogger named Mario Lavandeira, Jr. has a website called PerezHilton.com. That site has garnered a lot of attention lately and according to him has had traffic in excess of 4 million visitors in a day.

His website is so popular that even the celebrities he writes about came to his 29th birthday party he hosted at the Roxy in West Hollywood on Friday. Perez Hilton is an obvious play on Paris Hilton's name. Both Paris and Perez were at the party, which is kind of ironic considering they both attained fame via the internet.

Paris was not the only bold-faced guest. John Stamos, Dave Navarro, Dita Von Teese, Kelly Osbourne and Amy Winehouse showed up too. That is a testament of the power of his blog.

This party wasn't for Perez's fans. It was a media event where sponsors advertised their goods and publicists tried to push their clients into the limelight. It may have been called a party, but in reality it was work for most of the attendees.

Usually a party with Paris Hilton's name would attract more than a handful of photographers that were at the red carpet on Friday night. What made many photographers basically boycott the event was the fact that Perez Hilton uses many photographs on his blog without attribution or payment. All in the name of fair use. He has even used my Britney Spears photos. A lot of bloggers are using photos that they haven't purchased any rights to.

Well it's one thing when a blogger uses art to illustrate a story that they are writing about. Perez Hilton is not any old blogger. He is profiting significantly from his blog. Paid national ads for movies are regularly on his blog. Consider that the average cable news show gets less than a million viewers a segment, PerezHilton.com actually gets more eyeballs. But the mainstream media outlets actually pay for their content. If CNN wants to use my photos, they better be paying me.

A segment on the "View" discussed Perez Hilton's website. One of the hosts mentioned that Perez gets paid in excess of a million dollars a year. I'm not to sure of that, but I think he has the money to pay for photos. Perez was paid for appearing on the cable drama "Dirt", playing himself. Could you imagine if they used his likeness or website on the show without compensating him? He wouldn't be too happy.

So if Perez is exploiting photographers, why cover his event? I'm a journalist first, and you can't report on something without first hand knowledge. I might have some bias about him because he has used my photos, but in the larger scheme of things, he is a story and a story worth covering.

The LA Times reported about how photo agencies are suing Perez.