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Mugshot Websites Sued for Violating People’s Right to Publicity

mugshots

Several mugshot websites — including Just Mugshots, Busted! Mugshots, Mugshots Online, and MugRemove — are ringing in the new year with a massive class action law suit. According to NPR, hundreds of people who have been exonerated of all charges and had their records sealed are suing the websites for not only keeping their mugshots up and using them in banner ads, but refusing to take them down and “scrub” them off the Internet unless the victims pay a hefty fee.

The suit was started by Ohio woman Debbie Jo Lashaway and her lawyer Scott Ciolek, who claim that these websites are not news outlets and therefore not exempt to the publicity laws they are violating by making money off of these pictures.

Publishing the mugshots is usually no big deal, since most of them are in the public domain. When the websites begin charging people hefty sums to have them taken down, that’s when things get hairy… or at least potentially unlawful.

According to Ciolek in his Interview with Guy Raz of All Things Considered:

The lawsuit that we filed in Ohio challenges these websites on the grounds of publicity rights, and that’s like a copyright or patent that an individual has in their own persona… There are hundreds of stories we’re received since we filed the lawsuit two weeks ago, about people who’ve been totally exonerated of all crimes, and their mug shots are as present to this day on these websites as people that are guilty of very serious crimes

As you can imagine, the hundreds of people Ciolek is referencing have faced many hardships as a result of these websites. Finding work or even getting an apartment isn’t easy when your mugshot is showing up on even a quick Google search.

The class action suit may grow to include as many as 250,000 people in Ohio, each of whom could receive as much as $10,000 in damages if the case is won.

(via NPR via Boing Boing)


 
 
  • John

    This is bogus – sounds like some dead beat criminal wants something for free. When you are arrested your mugshot is public domain.

  • To all the ass$&@?s

    Hey John in this country it’s innocent until proven guilty and these folks were proven innocent!!

  • Matt

    Is there something about “hundreds of people who have been exonerated of all charges and had their records sealed are suing the websites” you don’t understand? At least read the article before you make accusations.

  • http://www.michaelspotts.com Michael Spotts

    Do you mean “right to privacy”? No one has a right to publicity. ;)

  • Abdelkarim Benoit Evans

    A mugshot is in the public domain and can be published for non-commercial purposes without the subject’s permission. However, no mugshot or other image of a person may be used for commercial ( money-making purposes) without the subject’s permission. The plaintiff’s argument is that charging a fee for removal of a mugshot is a commercial use of the image. It appears that the website could simply refuse to take down a mugshot and would NOT incur any liability. By trying to make money off people’s images, thy have opened the door to a lawsuit. It will be interesting to see how the court rules.

  • Ken Jones

    I wouldn’t want to live in a country with secret arrests, so I agree that arrest information should be public, including mugshots. However the problem comes from sites who post this information and make or allow one to pay to remove this information from their site.

    While it’s true in a legal sense that one is innocent until proven guilty, public opinion is a different matter. Just the arrest can be harmful. Too many folks don’t differentiate between an arrest and a conviction. These are two completely different things.

  • Don

    “People’s right to Publicity” LOL. Kim Kardashian would be suing if you took her photo down. Its not news anymore, it’s celebrity. In the future everyone’s mugshot will be up for 15 minutes.

  • rtfe

    yes, because all those guys sitting in san quentin are celebrities.

  • Tobias

    Let me get this straight.

    In the US, when you don’t like your neighbor, you can accuse him of stealing from you and (if you’re convincing enough) he will be arrested and his mugshot taken. You can then get access the mugshot and do with that picture whatever you like? While in the same time he has no right to restrict the access because it’s public information?

    You can mail the picture to every woman he’s dating?
    Mail it to his employer and every possible future employer?

    Print it out as large posters and distribute it all over the city?

    You could as well just shoot him.

    Glad I don’t live in the US.

  • theseamericans

    Refusing to take them down unless paid a fee? Utter and complete a-holes is the proper commentary. Take them down if requested you dicks.

  • Frenchy2008

    is money exortion legal in the USA like in Russia?…

  • Frenchy2012

    is money extortion legal in the USA like in Russia?…

  • rosak7926

    seriously, how may I participate in this law suit and to sue the people the gave them the information and to sue the people that allowed them to place my information.

  • Dorian

    If the police make a mistake and arrest an innocent person, why should that person’s reputation be ruined for the rest of their life?

  • appollo

    Never mind the BS about what’s constitutional or private. This is extortion. What part of that requires a debate? This people are charging ridiculous amounts to have these photos removed. Why is that moral or legal?

  • akmo 23

    What there doing is wrong I was found innocent on one count and given a NEW TRIAL on another affair. Both counts are illustrated unlawfully with my photo and just to submit information to clear my name i have to check terms and conditions it is clearly a disclaimer of there liability. Someone sue them put a temporary order to suspend all 3rd party public records and then have them audited for accuracy. Get the millions they made extorting people that are innocent and money they accepted regaurdless of conviction.

  • A victim

    To the jackass who think “your mug shot is a public domain”

    These sites are criminal and should be illegal as they are in reality extorting money from people who’ve been though an arrest system. Lots of these folks have been exonerated, because of course our justice systems is soooo absent of flaws.

    Furthermore even if you pay them, because you are in fact just an obedient citizen who wants to live in peace, they will not take down your arrest picture but pass it on to another one of their site which operate under a different name.
    I hope you get arrested some day for something you haven’t done or even for some stupid mistake, by some asshole power high cop, and see how it feels.

  • Ysoio

    How can these scumbag mugshot websites be a considered real media outlets in order to even be protected by the First Amendment? What they are doing is extortion and the last time I checked, that is illegal! They are getting away with it because like the cockroaches that they are, they’ve found a “loophole”. Technically, it is difficult to definitively say that it’s “extortion” unless you approach someone to ask for money. Still, they are pushing the mugshot to the very first link in the major search engine, which threatens your reputation and employment. You are being forcibly compelled to contact & pay THEM for removal or else deal with possible termination from your job.

  • Ysoio

    Read the article!

  • Ysoio

    I am a victim of this scheme as well. Many of the ignorant remarks like, “Just don’t do crime if you don’t want your mugshot published everywhere” are from low IQ dimwits who have never encountered a corrupt cop. I, too, hope they will meet a cop from hell, get arrested, have charges fabricated, and have their mugshot plastered all over the net! Only then will they know what we have gone through!

  • Ysoio

    I know what you mean. I am their victim too. This mugshot racket is out of control and has to be stopped.

  • Lamonte Jordan

    IF ANYONE HAS A LAWSUIT GOING AGAINST THESE MUGSHOT SITES, PLEASE LET ME KNOW I WOULD LIKE TO BE ADDED TO THE CLASS ACTION. I WANT TO SUE THEM AS WELL. THIS IS DESTROYING MY LIFE AND MY BUSINESS. MUGSHOTS SHOULD BE “SEARCHABLE” BUT “NOT” POSTED ON THE FIRST PAGE OF GOOGLE WHEN SOMEONE GOOGLES YOUR NAME EVERY TIME SOMEONE IS ARRESTED FOR SOMETHING PETTY. THIS IS DESTROYING LIVES AND OPPORTUNITIES. [email protected]

  • Lamonte Jordan

    AND IT’S “ONLY” HAPPENING IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA!