According to Politico, Donald Trump earned over $7 million in sales, from various merchandize he sold that included his mug shot. Some have asked whether this is a copyright infringement, as Trump is not the owner of the copyright; the law enforcement agency is.
In an article published December 2022, Innocent Until Proven Posted: Regulating Online Mugshot Publication with Intellectual Property Law in the University of Georgia School of Law’s Journal of Intellectual Property Law 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.”
MSNBC posited, in a September 2nd article The tricky legal question at the center of the Trump mug shot cash grab, that in their urgent need for funding, Fulton County Sherif could enforce their ownership of the photograph and go after these profits.
Recently, Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat pleaded with county commissioners for funding he desperately needs to address conditions in the county jail, according to local station 11 Alive. LaBat told the commissioners, “It’s a human crisis, and I have been begging for the resources,” adding, “I’m really, really tired of begging for money to do my job.”
That could mean that if the Fulton County sheriff wants to go after Donald Trump for those profits, he might have the legal ground to do so. And as MSNBC pointed out, Fulton County “just happens to be in desperate need of funds to address the horrific conditions in the Fulton County Jail.” It could be the perfect storm of legal events for the former president, who is already in enough hot water.
While there have been some questions as to whether a state agency can enforce copyright, the question seems to be more what can be copyrighted, rather than if, that is “… the Supreme Court and Copyright Office prohibit a state from copyrighting its laws but do not foreclose state copyright ownership outright. Thus, a state or local law enforcement agency that takes a mugshot photo could validly own the copyright of that photo initially.” Therefore,
There are two paths to mugshot protection with copyright law. First, the state or local law enforcement agency that initially owns a mugshot photo can register the copyright and file copyright infringement actions against those who publish the mugshot. Second, the state or local law enforcement agency that captures the mugshot photo can register the copyright and then transfer ownership of the copyright to the individual in the mugshot. That individual may then pursue a copyright infringement action against those who publish the photo.Journal of Intellectual Property Law
My issue is that he stole my pose, that I took over two years ago.