Who Owns The Trump Mugshot? Uh Oh…

Eiron, The Goddess of Irony, Doesn’t Take Off Long Weekends

Fulton County probably owns the rights to this mug’s mugshot:

As a general principle, the owner of a photo’s copyright is the person (or entity) who takes that photo, not its subject. In federal criminal cases, the U.S. government is not permitted to own the copyright to booking photos, so they are considered in the public domain. However, that is generally not the case with mug shots taken in state and local criminal proceedings.

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Betsy Rosenblatt, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, recently explained to Spectrum News 1 Ohio that the copyright owner of Trump’s mug shot is likely the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office. Other legal experts support that interpretation, including a 2022 article in the University of Georgia School of Law’s Journal of Intellectual Property Law that noted, “In the context of photographs taken by law enforcement during the booking process, the author of the mugshot photograph is the law enforcement agency.”

That would, again theoretically mean the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office has exclusive rights under U.S. copyright law to reproduce, sell or otherwise distribute Trump’s mug shot, except for certain uses like publishing the photo for news purposes. (I emailed the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday to confirm it owns the copyright and to ask if the Trump campaign has permission to use the image to sell for a profit. I have not received a response.)

So, about the $7M+ Ameros…

What happens now? As Rosenblatt noted, the sheriff office’s decision “to enforce its copyright is entirely up to them.”

To be clear, this seems very unlikely. But if it did, the damages to which it could be entitled under U.S. copyright law, while not criminal, could still be very costly for Team Trump. Specifically, all the money that the Trump campaign made from selling the mug shot.

Wouldn’t that be delicious if the Fulton County Police ended up with $7M LARGE from Hair Füror? Eiron is smiling enigmatically somewhere.

My freude would be totally schauden’ed.

Republished with permission from Mock Paper Scissors.

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