What is mugshots.com, what does mugshots.com do?
What is mugshots.com? Mugshots.com is an internet web service that houses photographs of people who were arrested in the different states.
Mugshots is operated by, and has the following people as affiliates, though I do not believe that the list is complete:
Tyrone Jacques Spencer (aka Tyronne Jacques), Robert Wiggen, Tiffany A Wiggen, James Cody Wiggen, Alice Wiggen, Kim Elaine Landolfi (aka Kim Boynton, Elaine Landolfi), Daniel Patrick Landolfi (aka Daniel Patrick, Patrick Landolfi), Gerald Michael Landolfi Jr (aka Michael Landolfi, Gerald Michael), Jeremy Brooks, Ryan Russell, Kyle Prall, Todd Greene, Jeff Kupietzky, Elizabeth Murray, Marc Epstien, Philip Lee, and Ron Collins, and Bruce Denson.
Within hours of this site being published to the search engines and individual that goes by the pseudonym of DavidKean02, DavidKean00, DavidKean, and J AR began a smear campaign against me on other sites suited to consumer complaints.
These men and women behind the mugshot and mugshot removal scams and extortion go to great lengths to keep their identities and images off of the internet. However with substantial effort the images and records of most of the individuals can be found; it is often not an easy task though.
Mugshots.com relies upon two revenue streams: advertizing and paid image and removal service.
Mugshots.com operates, at best in an area that is legally grey, and at worst as an illegal enterprise. Mugshots.com uses computer programs, commonly called “bots,” to enter into law enforcement databases and collect the photographs of individuals in those databases. This process, known as “Scraping,” when performed without legal authority is both a federal and state crime. Mugshots claims that the information is collected under the authorization of the “Freedom of Information Act,” 5 U.S.C. 552
After Mugshots.com has collected an individuals photograph, they then brand the image with their website recurrently throughout the picture and at the bottom right of the image. Mugshots then asserts that this is legal. There are several problems with the claims of Mugshots.com. Let us briefly examine these claims:
Mugshots asserts the information is collected under the “Freedom of Information Act.” Is this a valid claim? The FOIA has several exceptions. The exception that we need to look at is exception 7:
(7) records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C ) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual;
On the surface, it appears that Mugshots.com does not comply with the FIOA. In the case of a person that has not gone to trial, publishing that person’s information and image can, and will, compromise that persons “Right to a fair and impartial trial,” exception 7(B). In the case of a person who has been tried, convicted, and completed their sentence, publishing the persons information and image can, and does, constitute “An unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” exception 7(C ). In many cases, the publishing of a persons information could also “Be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source,” exception 7(D). We can make arguments for all of the exception (7) categories.
In further support of the allegation that the FIOA does not allow the disclosure of information that would harm an individual, let us look at the information that the US Department of Prisons (BOP) will release. One of the operators, Craig Ronald Wiggen, has served federal time, and the following image and associated URL gives us the information that the Department of Prisons will provide:
Notice that no personal information, or image is given. Of course, you are free to verify that the FIOA does not permit the release of information of past and current inmates by telephoning the U.S. Department of Prisons at (202) 307-3198, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the typical information the Mugshots.com presents on a person in their database:
Notice the personal information, including the date of birth, and often the place of birth. This information opens the person up to having their identity fraudulently used and possible charges for things they have nothing to do with.
The next issue that we examine is whether the images Mugshots.com publishes are in the public domain as Mugshots would like to believe:
There are 17 states that have encoded the right to publicity. The right of publicity basically states that a person has the right to profit off of their image and likeness. But before we reach the point of determining if Mugshots.com is illegally profiting from a persons likeness, we must decide if the image is in the public domain.
Simply put: your image was taken by a public agency and is public property of the state that took the picture, if a person wishes to contact that agency and ask for the information.
However, Mugshots.com takes that image that they obtained through scraping and makes a derivative work of it by branding recurrently it with their website URL. It is this derivative work that violates a person’s right to publicity. We don’t need to look at the individual states “Right to publicity” because that same right is addressed by the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125.
(a) Civil action
(1) Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which—
(A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person, or
(B) in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person’s goods, services, or commercial activities,
shall be liable in a civil action by any person who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged by such act. (source: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1125)
Mugshots illegally profits from information that they make public in violation the FIOA. Mugshots extorts the men and women who they have on their site. If a person does not pay a removal fee, and in some cases, even if you do pay the removal fee, Mugshots.com makes a person’s information available to the public in a way that can negatively affect a person’s ability to find employment and a decent residence.
These issues raise questions of the legitimacy of the website. Those implications are not comfortable. Mugshots.com also makes the claim of being a new media. I challenge a person to find reporting on the site. The ethics of Mugshots.com is poor and relies on extortion and public embarrassment for revenue.
In later articles the people operating Mugshots.com will be examined in greater detail and possible methods of addressing the problems Mugshots.com creates for people will be looked at.