Monday, October 07, 2013

"Mugshot" extortion is a new variation on the photography problem, as well as

A number of websites that scrape public records and publish mugshots of previous arrested people and then demand payment to have them taken down, are being criticized as abusing the First Amendment, and may become the subject litigation and state criminal statutes.  But all of this could run into First Amendment issues.  An Illinois state senator wants to introduce a statute defining a mug shot as the subject’s own intellectual property, NBC Chicago story here.  

And an Oho TV station reports a civil lawsuit here. Payment providers say they will cut off these sites as violating TOS if they learn about it, as in this story on Forbes, link.  
   
It would also be unclear what that would accomplish.  Could such a law extend to making a person’s face when seen in a bar his own intellectual property?  Generally, photography of people in publicly accessible places is legal (with certain exceptions) unless prohibited by property owners.  It is increasingly seen as rude (less so on the West Coast), though, particularly since about 2010, since tagging of social media photos has become viewed as a problem, and as the public becomes more concerned about online reputation.  In a few situations, a “right of publicity” tort can occur, but privacy invasion would normally be hard to establish.  There definitely can be issues when the images involve minors. 
    
Wired reports on the mugshot issue here.
   
The Wired article has a link to a curious story about a young man who had written a complex message about the 4th Amendment on his almost hairless chest, and then gone through security at Richmond (an airport I have flown out of only once, in 1969) and been arrested for disorderly conduct. He has wont he right to a civil trial against the TSA. 
  
The "mugshot" shown here is me, at the HRC Dinner Oct. 5, 2013.  

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