Annie Leibovitz's Financial Doomsday Clock Hits Midnight

Poor Annie Leibovitz can't catch a break! An Italian photographer's suing Leibovitz for allegedly stealing his work and passing it off as her own. Of course, that's hardly the worst thing on her plate right now.

According to Paolo Pizzett, the litigious Italian in question, Leibovitz had him shoot potential locations for an ad campaign she was working on with Italian coffee company LavAzza. She later told him she wouldn't be traveling to Italy, yet released images, he says, which are simply his images, only edited. Now he wants $300,000. Clearly Pizzett doesn't know that today's the day Leibovitz is meant to repay her $24 million load to Art Capital Group, lest she wants them to take control of her homes and copyrights.

Sadly for her, Leibovitz hasn't done much to get herself out of this financial quagmire. Though some money-minded insiders suggested Leibovitz filed for bankruptcy to protect herself from Art Capital's wrath, she hasn't. Still, it's unclear whether Art Capital will make good and declare her in default, thus forcing her into bankruptcy, which would give a judge power of her assets and provide a bit of much-needed breathing room.

"Declaring her in default may be like nuclear weapons," said attorney Thomas Kline, a partner in the Washington office of Andrews Kurth LLP who specializes in art law and litigation. "It would make it more urgent and helpful for her to declare bankruptcy and come under a protection of the bankruptcy court."

For their part, the Group insists it wants to settle the matter out of court.

At least there's one bright spot for Leibovitz: a New York judge last week gave Leibovitz an extension to answer Art Capital's suit, which alleges Leibovitz breached her a contract giving the group exclusive rights to sell her work.

Since she seems reticent to file for bankruptcy, it seems the best Leibovitz can do is break her silence and paint herself as a victim: she took the loan to renovate her Greenwich Village townhouses. Now the Art Capital Group's trying to take it all away. Could that be why her spokesperson, Matthew Hiltzik, has been suggesting the group's getting too aggressive?

There has been tension and dispute since the beginning ... For now, her attention remains on her photography and on continuing to organize her finances.

Perhaps she should be focusing her attention on packing up her homes and figuring out what the hell she's going to do if Art Capital Group takes control of her name.