You know there was a time when your business was..well, your business. Now in the world of the internet and constant Facebook updates, and tweeting (I still feel uncomfortable saying that), your business is the business of 3000 of your closest friends, and a bunch of people whom you don’t even know. One effect of this a blurring of the line between private and public, especially in family or personal matters. Such as getting arrested.
For fun, think of someone you know who has been arrested and Google their name and without even putting in “arrest” or “mugshot”, their mugshot will come up on websites such as bustedmugshots.com and justmugshots.com. It’s all fun and games, until it is you. But really, it’s public record, and they did get arrested, and so in that situation, there isn’t much recourse or sympathy (after all, we all want this open lack of privacy world, don’t we??? )
But what about when a person’s record is expunged and effectively sealed from public record and declared as never having happened? Then what when you Google them and their arrest mug shot comes up or when their potential employer does (after all, they are able to check “no” on job applications for having any convictions, yet here is the unflattering arrest mugshot).
This scenario is actually current litigation. The issue of the litigation is not the mug shot per se. As I said, it’s public record (though I still personally think there is an issue when there is a sealing of a record and the arrest still comes up on a search, but I will leave that for another day). The issue is that these sites in the name of Capitalism charge people hundreds of dollars to remove their mugshot from the site. The problem is that we all have an interest in our persona, our publicity (like of a like a personal trademark). And so a site making a profit through the publishing of someone’s protected persona creates an infringement of publicity rights.
Or so the argument goes by Attorney Scott Ciolek of Ohio goes who has filed a class action suit on behalf of thousands of persons who have been affected by this arrest mugshot/publicity rights infringement issue.
I hope somewhere in argument to the court he shouts Busted!
My charges were dismissed and the record of my arrest was sealed, so it is no longer public record. I have sent documentation to mugshotsworld.com proving it, and they still will not remove it unless I pay them money, plus they have added my address to the mug shot so anyone can see where my children and I live. Do I have any type of legal action I can take against the site to make them remove it? How can they legally continue to public it, KNOWING that it is no longer public record?
Very good blog Attorney Jones. I’ve heard another similar scam where websites post stories about a person written by some disgruntled person from their past e.g. Crazy ex girl/boyfriend, unhappy coworker, etc. The stories are always outlandish and exaggerated. Isn’t it amazing how brave everyone is when they can hide behind the Internet? The subject of the story gets upset and contacts the website to remove the story. The website agrees to remove it for a initial “consulting” fee and a yearly fee to keep the posting down in the future.
We all believe in the freedom of speech but these scan arts profiting under the guise of it need to be brought down. Postings of mugshots purport that they warn the public of criminals, however, their ulterior motive is to extort cash thereby becoming the very criminals they say they warn us about.
As attorneys we cannot let this sort of thing slide. Once these scam artists are exposed, part of their sentence should be to have their mugshots and dirty laundry stories posted on a website.