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Hello! sues photo leakers

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London (Reuters): The celebrity magazine Hello! has launched legal action against Internet sites that printed a leaked exclusive shot of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt with their infant daughter. Just as People magazine announced it had landed exclusive North American rights to the first pictures of the baby, an image of the newborn Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt and her parents popped up on at least two Web sites as the cover shot for Hello!

''We were very shocked and horrified to see that this embargo has been breached,'' Juliet Herd feature editor for Hello! Magazine, which sells in Britain, Spain, Turkey, Russia, Dubai, Thailand and Greece, told Reuters yesterday. ''Hello! is taking legal action around the world to stop Internet sites and everyone else who may seek to publish,'' she said. ''We are sending out legal 'Cease and Desist' letters to each of these sites.'' ''We have absolutely no idea how the picture was leaked.'' The baby was born on May 27 in a hospital in the southern African nation of Namibia where an army of paparazzi had descended, hoping to capture their own photos of the child.

Yesterday, Pitt and Jolie finally emerged from seclusion to speak to a select group of journalists in the west coast tourist town of Swakopmund. ''We are very grateful to the people of Namibia for making our time so special ... we could not have picked a better place to have our child,'' Jolie said at the briefing, where they laughed off talk of an imminent wedding. They announced on Monday that they had agreed to let photo agency Getty Images market pictures of their newborn with all proceeds going to help the less fortunate. Experts said worldwide rights to the pictures could sell for anywhere from 5 million dollars to 7 million dollars.

The picture surfaced on celebrity-lampooning Defamer.com (http://www.defamer.com) and the LiveJournal gossip blog (http://community.livejournal). Defamer.com, whose image portrays the baby in a golden glow, said: ''Mere moments after staring upon the Chosen One's image, we felt as if we were bathed in the same golden light that surrounds the infant's still frail form.'' Alison Crombie, spokeswoman in London for Getty Images, said: ''Our legal team are looking into it and we will take it from there. But I really don't think it will devalue the pictures as everyone is dying to see the full set.''

For celebrity magazines and photo agencies, there is increasingly cut-throat competition to land exclusives and sate the appetite of readers obsessed by the lives of the stars. Prices have gone through the roof in the past two or three years and Alan Williams, head of celebrity agency Big Pictures, told Reuters: ''The first pictures of Brad and Angelina with the baby are a massive opportunity.''

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