Did bootleg Hello! pics increase sales?

The jury is out over whether the prepublication on the web — some would call it piracy — of the pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's baby, Shiloh, helped or hindered the sales of People and Hello!, which together reputedly paid in excess of $7m (£3.8m) for the exclusive rights.

Larry Hackett, managing director of People, admitted he was furious when he first heard that the pictures were running on about a dozen websites before the magazine had a chance to hit the stands.

"As the guy who went through all the efforts to get these pictures, my initial reaction was anger," he told the The New York Times.

Supposedly most of the pictures on the web came from a bootleg copy of Hello!. It was even possible in some cases to see the creases in the pages that had obviously been photocopied.

Others came from purloined copies of People. Some of the websites — faced with the threat of legal action — withdrew their pictures.

But circulation expert Martin Walker, of Walker Communications, belives the pre-publication of the pictures did not damage the magazines' sales. "It just creates more buzz, more noise, so people will buy the magazine. Normally People sells 3,700,000 copies — this week it hopes it will hit five million," he said.

Professor Samir Husini, a teacher of journalism at the University of Mississippi, and known in the US as "Mr Magazine", agrees: "The blogs are merely whetting the appetite of the public. They want to see the real thing.

To these people it's not real unless it is in their hands, on their laps, in their bath tubs."

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