Right To Control The Use Of Your Mug Shot
By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you’ve ever had your mug shot taken, it may well be online somewhere. Can a website post your picture without your consent? A lawsuit says it shouldn’t be able to.
Who hasn’t seen the mug shot of Lindsay Lohan’s arrest? Or her other arrest? Or her other one? Many websites have catalogues of celebrity mug shots, from political arrestees like Dr. Martin Luther King, to perpetual arrestees, like Snoop Dogg. But for average Joes who just find themselves on the wrong side of the law, finding their picture online can have employment consequences.
Are those websites allowed to post your picture just because you were arrested? Yes.
A mug shot is a public record, and while there are state law limits on when arrests or even convictions can be used as a reason not to hire you, there’s no law that says that the mug shot can’t be posted. That said, an Ohio lawyer is suing five websites that post mug shots but remove them if the subject pays them a fee, because he says it violates the right to publicity – the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his image. We’ll see if that suit is successful.
In the interim, if you do find your mug shot online, at least you know you’re in very famous company.