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Fame game: AVO against snapper

PRIVATE SYDNEY

Lucrative side line … Mel B is known to tip off photographers.

Lucrative side line … Mel B is known to tip off photographers.

CELEBRITIES and paparazzi doing battle in court is nothing new, but there is something unusual about the apprehended violence order against the high-profile Sydney snapper Jamie Fawcett being sought by former pop star Melanie Brown and her husband Stephen Belafonte.

The 37-year-old former Spice Girl, better known as Scary Spice or Mel B, is an old hand at the fame game and prying lenses.

Since moving with her family to Sydney two years ago to become a judge on Channel Seven's talent show X Factor, Brown has established a lucrative side line in tipping off a select group of paparazzi about her movements in return for a slice of the fees generated by exclusive photo sales to magazines and newspapers around the world.

Yesterday Brown declined to be drawn on her arrangement with the agency Splash in Los Angeles, which represents paparazzi around the world and in Sydney. Splash has dealt in the star's most lucrative images.

''She would hit the roof if there wasn't a photographer waiting for them at Sydney Airport whenever they flew back in,'' a source said yesterday.

Fawcett, who denies the allegations and will defend the order, does not have a commercial agreement with the couple.

Exclusivity means high prices. An exclusive set of photos showing a bikini-clad Brown and Belafonte sipping wine and jumping off the side of their luxury cruiser on Sydney Harbour fetched about $10,000 when they were bought last week by British tabloids, including the Daily Mail.

By comparison, several sets of shots showing Brown jogging in Sydney were also on the market last week, but due to their abundance they were available for the comparative bargain price of only $150.

On Thursday Brown is due before Waverley Local Court where she and Belafonte will claim Fawcett allegedly threatened them and intentionally created ''big waves'' in his boat during a kayaking expedition on Sydney Harbour last Thursday.

Police have already placed an interim AVO on Fawcett to stay at least 200 metres away from the star. Fawcett intends to argue against the order.

However, details of Brown's movements are sent regularly to Fawcett's rivals at the Splash agency, where Brown has established relationships with the photographers Tom Vickers and Mike Emroy, who dispatch photographers in Sydney to get the shots.

Brown's agent in Sydney, Sean Anderson, denied any knowledge of the deals yesterday, though he revealed he had resigned from Brown's account in August.

Brown is now being managed by her husband, Belafonte, who is understood to orchestrate the deals with Splash.

Six weeks ago Fawcett instructed his solicitors at Intercept Law to send Belafonte a letter demanding he desist from making ''defamatory'' remarks about the photographer.

The letter followed another altercation between the couple and Fawcett outside an eastern suburbs cake shop.

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