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Monday, November 26, 2012

Predatory Websites Turn Mug Shots Into an Extortion Racket

Posted by on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 3:55 PM

Here's something that I never thought I'd write: The Daily has published a story that everyone should read.

Websites like Mugshots.com and Arrests.org have collected millions of mug shots by scraping police department websites, and if innocent arrestees want their photos taken down, they have to spend anywhere from $399 to $1,479.

The other option is allowing the embarrassing — and potentially career-killing — image to stay near the top of their Google results for years...This summer, a new mug-shot site called BlabberMouthKC.com launched with one of the most brazenly extortionate schemes of all. Before opening, the owner sent letters to arrestees with their mug shots printed on the envelope, telling them to pay $200 to have the picture removed.

We have already started blabbing to the world about your release from jail,” the letter said. “And we want to make you aware of our services, as we kind of have a big mouth.”

The owner shut the website down after an enormous backlash.

Go read the whole maddening story.

 

Comments (24) RSS

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1
What assholes. The police departments could (but likely won't) enforce their copyrights in the photographs and have them removed. In states where there is a common law and/or statutory right of publicity or commercial appropriation cause of action, the people could raise those claims.
Posted by California on November 26, 2012 at 4:12 PM · Report this
COMTE 2
OTOH, if they can't match the mugshot to a correct name or vice versa (as was the case with a photo allegedly of my younger brother), they can extort to their little ole' hearts-content, but it won't mean squat.
Posted by COMTE on November 26, 2012 at 4:41 PM · Report this
3
There oughtta be a law!

Oh wait, there is! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality…
Posted by K on November 26, 2012 at 4:47 PM · Report this
internet_jen 4
An example of the same thing, but instead of mug shots it is naked pictures of people published with identifying information:

http://www.onthemedia.org/2012/nov/16/is…
Posted by internet_jen on November 26, 2012 at 4:51 PM · Report this
5
@California: The reason these people can search and find these mugshots is because government records are public domain. There is no copyright for publicly owned records.
Posted by arizona on November 26, 2012 at 4:57 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 6
How American. No matter how venal, if it makes money, someone will try it. Anything for $.
Posted by Max Solomon on November 26, 2012 at 5:00 PM · Report this
7
@5, if the photographs are generated by state or municipal law enforcement and are sufficiently original, then there is a copyright in the photographs and they are not public domain without further operation of law. There may be state laws compelling disclosure of these copyrighted records, or even making them public domain. But those laws vary from state to state and at least some do "not prohibit a state agency from placing restrictions on how a record, if it were copyrighted, could be subsequently distributed." 261 F.3d 179, 192 (2d Cir. 2001). The reason people can search the records is because there are laws permitting access to the records, but merely accessing a record does not affect ownership.
Posted by California on November 26, 2012 at 6:06 PM · Report this
schmacky 8
Pathological assholery.
Posted by schmacky on November 26, 2012 at 6:06 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 9

I love this...shutting down an entire website for attacking a person.

I wonder how far it extends.

Imagine if all the Google bombers could be served their just deserts and have their website shut down and the offenders tracked down and sued...

I am waiting for the day when someone makes the technology to track down the offenders as easy as pressing a button...
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on November 26, 2012 at 6:59 PM · Report this
10
California, not sure what you are talking about as far as copyrighting public records to control their distribution. I have made hundreds of public record requests and and somewhat familiar with the laws affecting public records.

In Washington State we are insulated from this because by statute mugshots are confidential records and are not releasable without signed authorization by the subject.
Posted by wl on November 26, 2012 at 6:59 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 11
Threatening known criminals is a good way to get shot. Someone didn't think their business model through enough.
Posted by Sir Vic on November 26, 2012 at 7:55 PM · Report this
12
@11 the operators of these businesses aren't "threatening known criminals." DUI, misdemeanor possession, disorderly conduct, MIP, and DV arrests are their bread and butter. This sort of site holds no shadow to a career criminal who, after all, is not working a 9-5 job for someone who cares about criminal records. This is all about shaking down regular shnooks who have jobs, families, and non-criminal reputations.

All that said, I'm annoyed at the idiocy in this thread with regard to copyright. PUBLIC RECORDS HAVE NO COPYRIGHT PROTECTION, PERIOD, FULL STOP. Copyright is granted only to private, not public entities. Other laws may restrict the use of public records, but copyright has nothing to do with them. Until and unless other laws exist to curb this practice (or the courts find something of a penumbra of privacy protection for people shaken down by these - currently legal - rackets, there's nothing to be done.)

It's a really brilliant business model, though. For dicks.
Posted by coxsackie on November 26, 2012 at 8:50 PM · Report this
13
One of my friends found a mutual friend on one of those websites. And of course he told everyone. And of course we all searched for it. The photo went straight to the top of google search, so now thats the first thing you see when a search is made under the guys name. Future employers will easily see that stuff.
Posted by leroy jenkins on November 26, 2012 at 9:41 PM · Report this
14
@12, only the U.S. government (i.e., the federal--not state--government) is categorically excluded from having copyrights in its original works. 17 U.S.C. s 105. There is no public/private author distinction.

Being a "public record" has no bearing on ownership. Section 102 does not exclude "public records" from protection. But if you still find the Copyright Act unconvincing, Wikipedia's Public Domain page speaks plainly on the subject:

"Public records are not necessarily in the public domain. Citizens generally have the right to access many items in the government's public records, but this right to access does not include a right to republish or redistribute the works so accessed. In general, copyright is neither lost nor waived when a work becomes part of the public record. Being in the public record and copyright are two orthogonal concepts. Uses of works from the public record must comply with copyright law."

Again, state disclosure laws differ--some may permit further distribution, others may not, as @10 points out. If you're aware of a law that excludes public records from copyright protection, or categorically precludes copyright ownership by public entities, please point me to it.

I think the stronger argument against copyright of mugshots is lack of originality.
Posted by California on November 27, 2012 at 7:35 AM · Report this
Sir Vic 15
@12 You're failing to understand that guys who get booked for things like DUI, misdemeanor possession, disorderly conduct, MIP, and DV are not all 100% good guys who just got unlucky. They may not have been charged with the worst of their actions. Running a business that attempts to extort people in that demographic is like smoking in a fireworks factory: don't be surprised when the whole shithouse blows.

(Seriously, extorting a guy who thinks it's OK to beat up women? You think that kind of coward won't respond violently, possibly with a gun?)
Posted by Sir Vic on November 27, 2012 at 7:50 AM · Report this
16
What is your problem with The Daily, Paul?
Posted by six five on November 27, 2012 at 9:08 AM · Report this
17
Yelp does the same thing with negative reviews.
Posted by Yelp! Someone's fucking my wallet on November 27, 2012 at 12:29 PM · Report this
18
Why would they remove anything they already published without a fee? That makes no sense. You think CNN would unpublish material that changed later on? Give me a break.
Posted by Blaine on November 27, 2012 at 12:56 PM · Report this
19
Great site, and informative. Yes, the mugshots belong to the state (Maine) and when I inquired about the legality of the predatory websites using them to extort money, i was advised to get a lawyer.

So what other recourse do we have? Does anyone have advice on how to locate the actual site/business address of these predators.

Some of us have lived exemplary lives since our blowups, and would like to contribute to society in a meaningful way, and now some profit motivated hasnamuss is running a racket.

C
Posted by csc113 on December 13, 2012 at 4:44 AM · Report this
20
Great site, and informative. Yes, the mugshots belong to the state (Maine) and when I inquired about the legality of the predatory websites using them to extort money, i was advised to get a lawyer.

So what other recourse do we have? Does anyone have advice on how to locate the actual site/business address of these predators.

Some of us have lived exemplary lives since our blowups, and would like to contribute to society in a meaningful way, and now some profit motivated hasnamuss is running a racket.

C
Posted by csc113 on December 13, 2012 at 4:51 AM · Report this
21
There are ample laws on the books to secure injunctive relief (take down mugshots) and monetary damages against websites that use google to extort money . I am a victim of Mugshots and Google and we are bringing a national class action to put teeth into the statutes that make their activity illegal. I am working with two attorneys in Florida, Joel Stempler 561-635-5096 and Diane Gonzalez to pursue the litigation. Come join us My name, one of the victims is mark Daniel Friedland and I reside in Louisiana and my numbers are 337-893 4388 cell 239 3485943 email kjuntale @yahoo.com
Posted by takedown on December 17, 2012 at 10:21 AM · Report this
22
There are ample laws on the books to secure injunctive relief (take down mugshots) and monetary damages against websites that use google to extort money . I am a victim of Mugshots and Google and we are bringing a national class action to put teeth into the statutes that make their activity illegal. I am working with two attorneys in Florida, Joel Stempler 561-635-5096 and Diane Gonzalez My name is Mark Daniel Friedland kjuntale@yahoo. number is 337-893-4388
Posted by mark friedland on December 17, 2012 at 10:28 AM · Report this
23
corruption of law enforcement agencies, money extortion from private companies. Only in America! Anything to make money! You should do more research on the guys working for these sites/private companies, they are not "little angels" and many of them had problems with the Justice before like Mr Gary Epstein...
Posted by Frenchy2012 on February 11, 2013 at 5:47 AM · Report this
24
Petition to remove these and ban these websites on whitehouse.gov website. Sign and pass along please! https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petitio…
Posted by stopextortion on March 24, 2013 at 11:31 AM · Report this

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