Utah Sheriff Claims Copyright On Mugshot Photos To Avoid Releasing Them

from the promote-the-progress? dept

velox alerts us to the latest example of government officials abusing copyright law (or claims of copyright law) to avoid basic transparency. And this one's quite incredible. Kyle Pell, who runs the website bustedmugshots.com, is involved in a lawsuit after Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder stopped releasing mugshots by claiming he held the copyright on them. Yes, the police, claiming copyright on mugshots. Winder's heart may be in the right place, arguing that sites like that are unfair, but that's no excuse for his own actions.
"I believe that the practice of using these mug shots to belittle and abuse our citizens is immoral and repugnant," he said when discussing the websites in general during an interview Tuesday.

"A compassionate society does not utilize the scarlet letter," he said
In other words, he's admitting that his copyright claim has nothing to do with what copyright law is for, but everything to do with censoring a website. Yeah, that's probably not a good idea.

This is not what copyright law is intended for, and the use as such is a clear abuse of the law. Of course, whether or not there's even a legitimate copyright there is a bit of somewhat unsettled law. While it's clear that works created by the federal government are automatically public domain, it's a little fuzzier when you get down to local governments. Many local governments, smartly, take the position that they face the same rules as the federal government, and assume that such documents are public, but it's not entirely clear under the law if this is necessarily the case. Go down to the level of a sheriff's department, and he could potentially argue that the prohibition on copyrighting works created by government don't apply. It's a weak argument, to be sure, and one that I doubt would hold up in court, but it's not entirely settled.

This is unfortunate, of course. We've long argued -- and believe strongly -- that all government created works should be public domain. They don't need the copyright incentive to be created, obviously. Furthermore, mugshots have long been seen as a part of the public record. To retroactively claim copyright on them is just bizarre. There's clearly no copyright interest in the photos. They weren't created because of copyright. The government isn't using them to promote greater public learning or to support more content creation. It's flat out using it to censor a website that it doesn't like. That should mean that even if a court unfortunately finds that the Sheriff can claim copyright, opening his mouth to flat out say that he's doing it to censor the website probably undermines his argument, as it shows a government deliberately blocking someone's speech.


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  •  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:37am

    Cathy or one of the other Blues pops up in 3...2...1... to claim this as "proof" that Mike wants an end to all copyright.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:43am

      Re:

      Cathy or one of the other Blues pops up in 3...2...1... to claim this as "proof" that Mike wants an end to all copyright.

      Of course he hates and wants to end all copyright. He's just too chicken shit to admit it or discuss it directly. He LIVES for stories like this, which are the exception and not the rule, where he can go off on a rant about how someone is abusing copyright. He MUST discredit copyright whenever possible. It's what he lives for. Discuss copyright in a rational way? Nope. Just idiotic hit pieces like this. No time for a reasoned discussion. No time for honesty. Just Pirate Mike being himself. He will NEVER have a direct and honest discussion about his beliefs about copyright. He's too ashamed of his own beliefs.

       

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        JCHP (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:51am

        Re: Re:

        "how someone is abusing copyright"

        Like Prenda & Co.? Like Twisted Sister (although I think this was a bad case of derpitis)?

        There are plenty of examples of poor usage of copyright and not enough of proper usage because copyright is so very much f'd up, thanks to successive adjustments that do not benefit the public (which should be the primary stakeholder in the discussion and not the ignored stakeholder).

         

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        Rikuo (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:54am

        Re: Re:

        Blah blah blah blah, yawn. Literally and I do mean literally, every single word in that has been said by you at least ten thousand times before, so no need to keep posting it. At least Mike is able to point to new and ever crazier situations where copyright law is being abused. He doesn't trot out literally the same bullshit every time he wants to make a point.

        Come back when you've got something ORIGINAL to say (what, a copyright supporter say something original? The horror!)

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:16am

          Re: Re: Re:

          AJ having something original to say? Not now. Not ever.

          His comments are all the verbal equivalent of diarrhea.

           

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:51am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            AJ's commentary is just as original as Masnick's.

            And you should stop complaining. Just because Masnick has become a discredited laughingstock doesn't mean that maintenance isn't required to make sure it isn't forgotten.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 11:08am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Discredited? Hardly. I'm sure that's your plan, but you've hardly succeeded at it.

              Look at the readership for this and other tech sites that routinely report on and discuss abuses of copyright and other IP laws. It's not just Mike on this one site.

              The trolling, such as yours and AJ's, is more prevalent here due to the open commenting policy.

              But, make no mistake, the only discrediting that's going on is for copyright maximalists such as yourself and AJ, who are attempting to push an agenda that favors a well moneyed lobby of multi-national IP based companies that have corrupted numerous governments to buy laws that favor them over the benefit of the public.

              Everyone sees through it to what it is. An attempt to ensure that abusive IP laws are never ever reigned in.

              Carry on.

               

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              JMT (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 2:35pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Masnick has become a discredited laughingstock..."

              Please provide evidence of this claim.

               

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                Chicken for Dinner, Jun 6th, 2013 @ 12:04am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "Please provide evidence of this claim."

                He won't ever do that. Why? Just replace the name "Pirate Mike" in all of his comments, especially the rant above, with the real name of the Anonymous Coward who posted it. Bawk bawk bawk indeed lol.

                 

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:54am

        Re: Re:

        why do you persist with these lies and ad hom attacks? not only has mike given an answer but that answer has been linked to multiple times when you repeat the lie and you still don't accept that he answered because it doesn't fit your anti techdirt narritive

        You're either a drone, troll or a paid shill and I wouldn't blame anyone for never responding to you again.

         

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          Chicken for Dinner, Jun 6th, 2013 @ 12:38am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "why do you persist"

          He's overflowing with pure hate, so much so that it has clearly driven him insane, that's why. He doesn't care one iota about the copyright industry or law, he only cares about how his "rights" have been "violated" and getting revenge for that. It's a super intense form of persecution complex really.

          As is typical for someone dealing with a mental illness of this magnitude, he suffers from paranoid delusions and as a result tends to automatically lump people he decides he doesn't like into the same group as those he sees as guilty, even if they've never actually done anything wrong. His fixation on Mike is a perfect example of this. He would burn down an apartment complex full of innocent people if it meant killing just one pirate because for him the ends always justify the means.

          In other words he's about as morally bankrupt as they come, far more so than any so called pirate, yet completely unable to see it. The evidence is all there in every post he has ever made on TechDirt. If anything we should pity him because his future is no doubt very bleak. He'll most likely be institutionalized at some point in his life, provided he doesn't hang himself first that is. I honestly wish I could help him, but alas he is just too much of a coward to admit he has a serious problem and needs such help.

           

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        PaulT (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:08am

        Re: Re:

        "No time for a reasoned discussion."

        Well, if one of you guys actually provided an intelligent, reasoned counterpoint instead of whining and name calling peppered with lies and deflections, maybe that time would appear.

        The ball's in your court.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:11am

        Re: Re:

        This is clearly just another Anomaly.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:43am

        Re: Re:

        Quite a lot of exceptions happening lately.

         

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        Zos (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 1:49pm

        Re: Re:

        you say all that like it's a bad thing.

         

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        JMT (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 3:14pm

        Re: Re:

        "He MUST discredit copyright whenever possible."

        In your blind rage you might have missed that this post doesn't discredit copyright at all, or even call for any changes to copyright law other than clarifying the logical assumption that local governments shouldn't be able to claim copyright on their creations, as per the federal government.

        For someone who clearly loves copyright, you're strangely at ease with such an obvious example of it's abuse, especially since it's the government censoring public info. Says a lot about you...

         

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          Tubal (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 4:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: to JMT

          Dear JMT, I am not blind… My statement of the law is correct. I am not rageful… I respect Mike’s views on many accounts. For that reason, I have gone out of my way to see him speak on multiple occasions. I definitely disagree with him on many accounts. If my comments came off as rageful, it was not my intent. Upon review, it is a mystery to me why they should be viewed as rageful.

          Although Mike often does attempt to discredit copyright, that may not have been the specific case here and that was not the point I made in my comments. Mike did misstate the law. That does not discredit him across the board but it does at least somewhat diminish his position, and the unqualified assertions made, on this issue. In my estimation, Mike can take withstand the criticism.

          If “local governments shouldn't be able to claim copyright on their creations” that is far from an obvious logical assumption. It is not the law as determined by multiple elected Congresses, and as interpreted by the courts. The fact that states and localities are able to claim copyright ownership of their works is consistent with Federalism. Presumably you advocate that states should have no such rights, which would require a change in law. Good luck… I suggest there are other more worthwhile reforms to pursue in the area of copyright law.

          I will not shy away from an appreciation for copyright law. It is an area of the law that has accomplished much good. It is not perfect.

          I don’t think Sheriff Winder’s use constitutes abuse. That is largely an issue regarding the roles of shame and forgiveness in Salt Lake County, rather than copyright -- an interesting discussion has ensued in the comments on forgiveness and shame. I am confident that the people of Salt Lake County are well equipped to decide whether they think Sheriff Winder’s actions are proper. There are elections and if by some strange circumstance this issue tips the polls, it may be remedied according to the will of the people. Like it or not, in terms of current copyright law, the government of Salt Lake County owns the property at issue, mug shots.

          I would wager you would be surprised about my positions on intellectual property law. I am knowledgeable of intellectual property law, at least more so than most. And, I am a relatively open minded person.

          Today’s comments were the first I have posted. I think I may post some more. Maybe I will learn that I am wrong on several accounts and will learn more about other reasoned views. Regardless, I sincerely hope that accuracy, civility and reasoned views prevail.

           

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            nasch (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 6:03pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: to JMT

            I don’t think Sheriff Winder’s use constitutes abuse. That is largely an issue regarding the roles of shame and forgiveness in Salt Lake County, rather than copyright

            You're saying his copyright claim is related to the issues of shame and abuse, which have nothing to do with copyright law, and at the same time that that use is not an abuse of copyright law? Maybe I'm misunderstanding you.

             

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              Tubal (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:25pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: to JMT to nasch

              Good comment. The comment you refer to of mine is a muddled. I think it is better stated as follows (see below in CAPS). I stand by the position that the sheriff has not abused copyright, but perhaps his actions are questionable with regard to shame and forgiveness. But he was elected to the position to make such calls.
              I appreciate you pointing out the lack of clarity.

              I don’t think Sheriff Winder’s use constitutes abuse OF COPYRIGHT. THE MORE INTERESTING ISSUES ARE THE issue(S) regarding the roles of shame and forgiveness in Salt Lake County, rather than copyright -- an interesting discussion has ensued in the comments on forgiveness and shame. I am confident that the people of Salt Lake County are well equipped to decide whether they think Sheriff Winder’s actions are proper. There are elections and if by some strange circumstance this issue tips the polls, it may be remedied according to the will of the people. Like it or not, in terms of current copyright law, the government of Salt Lake County owns the property at issue, mug shots.

               

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            JMT (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:41pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: to JMT

            "Dear JMT, I am not blind… I am not rageful…"

            Unless you're the AC who posted the comment I was replying to, I completely agree.

            "I don’t think Sheriff Winder’s use constitutes abuse. That is largely an issue regarding the roles of shame and forgiveness in Salt Lake County, rather than copyright..."

            Copyright has a clearly defined purpose, and it's not for censoring websites officialdom don't like. Quoting Mike from his post; "There's clearly no copyright interest in the photos. They weren't created because of copyright. The government isn't using them to promote greater public learning or to support more content creation." The use of copyright law to suppress speech is one of the reasons why respect for copyright law is at an all-time low and still falling.

             

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:38am

    This is not what copyright law is intended for, and the use as such is a clear abuse of the law.

    I'm still waiting for you to back up your claim that I abuse the law for profit. Three years and yet no proof and no retraction of your baseless claim. Bawk, bawk, bawk.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:53am

      Re:

      Oh, I'm glad you're now admitting that you're an obsessed tantrum thrower. That's the first step!

       

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      Rikuo (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:55am

      Re:

      So, what, one of the trolls is actually Jim Winder?

       

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      Vidiot (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:17am

      Re:

      Posts anonymously, but refers to his identity as being known... curious. An enigma, wrapped in a fanatical riddle.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:19am

      Re:

      Who are "you"? Are you one of those guys who whines about breach of privacy if Mike checks the IP logs to see if all the anonymous trolling is coming from the same person?

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:42am

      Re:

      I'm still waiting for you to back up your claim that space aliens from planet spork are mind controlling Obama to use him in their war with Yog-Sothoth, their greatest enemy.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 10:21am

      Re:

      Hi AJ, you're a fucking mentally challenged monkey. It's been 3 years since that little jab at you and you still cry yourself to sleep every night. It's pathetic, really pathetic. If you are indeed a grown man, and I doubt that very seriously - more like a gelding - you will get over it, but that won't happen will it? Your last words on your deathbed will be "damn you Mike Masnick, you ruined my pathetic little life."

       

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      The Groove Tiger (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 12:34pm

      Re:

      Hello.

      You have just given implied permission to Mike to publicly disclose your identity, if he is aware of it.

      It is, after all, a requirement for "backing up the claim that you abuse the law for profit."

      If you don't think so, we'll take it as "please, oh please don't back up your claim that I abuse the law for profit."

      Thank you.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:44am

    I wonder if smaller governments could claim creative commons on them? Just say no commercial use. Or just make their website harder to scrape.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:54am

    "I believe that the practice of using these mug shots to belittle and abuse our citizens is immoral and repugnant, thus I will do the most moral thing and immorally lie to prevent such things from happening"

     

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      Rob, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:09am

      Re:

      This is a good point about the use of mugshots to apply further punishment and humiliation. But, unfortunately, he's also admitting that copyright is being used for something other than protecting one's creation from being pirated, and thus being applied out of scope.

      But . . . not having public access to police mugshots does make it harder to keep track of what my, let's say, "friends," for lack of a better term, have been up to. Better than facebook.

       

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    Argonel (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:57am

    Considering that a mugshot has specific requirements, is there any creative expression? Without creative expression are there any copyrightable elements?

     

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      madasahatter (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:47am

      Re:

      Interesting, but I understand if there is a copyright it is created when the work is made and I am not sure about copyrights for something mugshots. So, as Mike noted, there may be an enforcable copyright claim here unless there is a law specifically stating Utah state and local governments (or state and local governments) documents are automatically public domain. Mike is citing federal law which appears to vague on this point and I do not if Utah has any law concerning this.

       

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      Rob, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:03am

      Re:

      Often, the limits imposed on one's work by format, medium, size, etc. are what inspire creativity. Just look at poetry: Sonnet, Haiku, Limerick. They all have very strict rules, yet many different creative expressions.

      On the other hand, I agree with your that mugshots aren't a particularly inspired form of "art."

       

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:17am

      Re:

      Yeah, you're probably right. The copyrightable elements of a photo are things like angle, framing, composition, lighting, etc. -- all of which are not only fixed for mugshots, they are fixed so as to be as minimal and uncreative as possible, to give the clearest and most objective view of the subject matter. And the subject matter itself is the one thing that is definitively not part of a photography copyright.

       

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        Tubal (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 12:37pm

        Re: Re:

        My initial comment "Mike is wrong" was directed toward the statement "Of course, whether or not there's even a legitimate copyright there is a bit of somewhat unsettled law. While it's clear that works created by the federal government are automatically public domain, it's a little fuzzier when you get down to local governments."

        Mike's focus on works created by the federal government was clearly (at least to me) referring to 17 USC 105. I commented further with support for the notion that Mike is in fact wrong.

        Your point regarding eligibility for copyright protection based on the lack of creativity of mug shots is well taken. I would likely find myself strongly supporting your view that copyright protection may not extend to a mug shot. Since Sheriff Winder seemingly won't release the photos, I guess it is tough to argue whether the unseen photos are eligible for copyright protection.
        Despite the side I would take as a policy matter (against copyright protection), I think the current law would generally find mug shots to be copyrightable.
        A dedicated copyright claimant would be able to make all sorts of arguments for copyright protection, such as that make-up, facial expression and a whole host of other factors could go toward the originality and creative expression in the photograph.

         

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    pegr, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 7:57am

    Not copyright, but...

    Yes, the use of copyright in this case is clearly inappropriate. But if the goal is to protect the privacy of an offender (a position that most LEOs would not take, as offenders "deserve" it), there are exceptions to public records laws used to protect individual privacy. Social security numbers, for example, are usually redacted from public records. The sheriff could claim, quite reasonably, that these records are private and not release them.

    Now if the public records laws explicitly state the data elements entitled to protection and do not specifically include offender photos, this guy is screwed, no matter what his intentions are.

     

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      Richard (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:25am

      Re: Not copyright, but...

      Yes - clearly the intention is good and websites like bustedmugshots are a disgrace since they are effectively involved in open extortion.

      However copyright law is not the appropriate tool.

      Perhaps the sheriff should find some excuse to arrest the owner of bustedmugshots and then put his mugshot on an official site until he closes bustedmugshots.com.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:40am

      Re: Not copyright, but...

      I find the sheriffs attitude more worrying than the site. The attitude of I do not like what you are doing, and I will find a law I can bend to stop you, is very dangerous when coming from a law enforcement officer.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:59am

        Re: Re: Not copyright, but...

        It is probably more like: "I really haven't been able to find a way to protect the criminals from this unwarrented abuse and I haven't been able to get politicians to react. Therefore I use the most abused claim in the world to try to avoid this disgrace and get some media-time so politicians actually see the problem."

        Any coverage is good coverage when you want to make a point.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 12:08pm

          Re: Re: Re: Not copyright, but...

          The problem with police abusing the law is that it soon becomes alright for them to plant evidence, and coerce people into illegal acts.... like the FBI and terrorism.
          Get evidence that they are breaking the law, lobby for the law to be changed, but without evidence of illegal acts, possibly after a law change if they continue as they are, put up with them.
          Vigilantism by law officers soon destroys all respect for the law.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:07am

    File a lawsuit claiming it's a violation of the right of privacy and a harm to society from discrimination people on mugshot sites suffer. That's the better solution here, attack the real problem.

    People in the US convicted of crimes are FAR more likely then in other first world countries to go back to committing more crimes when released. Part of the problem is how it's next to impossible to get a bunch jobs if you have a criminal record, and if you broke the law say to steal before because you didn't have the money to support yourself... well that's just reinforcing a never ending loop.

    And then there's crimes that just an accusation of it with zero evidence will turn you into a pariah, like child molestation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:18am

    there are posts like this every week almost on techdirt. none have ever led to any changes being made to copyright law, none will ever lead to any changes being made. it 's a shame, but as long as the entertainment industries can and do keep lining pockets of government representatives with nothing being done to stop it, no changes will be made. everyone agrees that changes are desperately needed, everyone that is, except the industries and their 'slaves'! so why the hell keep giving the same comment of 'This is not what copyright law is intended for'? as long as no one is going to be punished for abusing it, it wont change!!

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:33am

    Copyright is common law, and Sheriff here acts for public good.

    Conversely, "free speech" isn't defined as making money off exhibiting folly. And I largely, perhaps entirely, agree with Mike here: it's a difficult case. The subject line is what I decided.

    I form my opinions before reading comments: lucky so this time as the fanboys go barking happily off on the first scent of sanity that they pick up, solely in order to drown it out with sheer yapping.

    ^^^ "one of the other Blues" -- Sheesh. You kids really object to any disagreement here. I try every day to show how you long to suppress speech -- WORSE than those you call "copyright maximalists" do because this is supposedly a forum for discussion -- but you've gone blind from masnicking and can't see the obvious.



    By the way, masnicking is defined by Glenn Greenwald: "daily spurts of short and trivial traffic-generating items".

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/04/reader-funded-journalism

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:42am

      Re: Copyright is common law, and Sheriff here acts for public good.

      I'd make one small correction. You make your opinions before you read the articles. It's a proven, self-admitted fact.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:46am

      Re: Copyright is common law, and Sheriff here acts for public good.

      You are delusional as always, Blue. Seek help.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:46am

      Re: Copyright is common law, and Sheriff here acts for public good.

      "And I largely, perhaps entirely, agree with Mike here"

      Holy cow, HOLD THE PRESS! This just in....

      "I form my opinions before reading comments"

      This is my shocked face -.-

      "The subject line is what I decided"

      Also the only part where you were fully and completely on topic. (which is probably why you don't get many people to talk with you rather than berate you).

      "Copyright is common law, and Sheriff here acts for public good."

      Common law or not isn't important. What is important is that this is an obvious abuse of copyright (whether you are or aren't a maximalist). While I agree the Sheriff is acting for the public good, you need to do so in a legal way. Simply abusing the law because it does the public good isn't right. Either get the guy on another law or make a law to stop it. Don't go around the law to stop free speech as now the guy who runs the website has grounds for a law suit for stifling his free speech and looks like a victim.


      Your turn. Can we have a discussion or will we slip back to "masnicking" and (I'll use the term) "AJ/OOTBing"?

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:03am

      Re: Copyright is common law, and Sheriff here acts for public good.

      Lol. The blue formerly known as Average_joe. Quite a transformation.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:04am

      Re: Copyright is common law, and Sheriff here acts for public good.

      People have told you many times and given prove to you citing court cases that Copyright is NOT common law and yet you keep on stating that copyright is common law. You boy are either living in a deluded one person world or you are clueless.

       

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    Alt0, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:34am

    bustedmugshots.com is a PAY SITE!

    I have an issue with public records being closed up behind a subscription requirement.
    Mostly because I don't want to pay and wanted to search all my friends names...

     

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    Tubal (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:39am

    mike is wrong

    Mike, you state: “Of course, whether or not there's even a legitimate copyright there is a bit of somewhat unsettled law.” That is just not true. There is nothing “fuzzy” about the inherent copyright status of works created by local governments.

    What support might you have for that statement?

    Your policy arguments of what you believe should be the case do not change the current law. Offering such misinformation does not even appear to serve the goal of enactment of the position you desire.

    It is true that the nature of the work, plays a significant role in whether a use is fair, but the works at issue ARE protected by copyright law.
    It is also true that there are alternative policy grounds that might indicate against certain uses being found infringing. That said, I doubt the uses by the shakedown artists at issue would prevail on fair use grounds even if access to the works was provided.
    Sherriff Winder is right on… As an elected representative of the copyright owning entity, he has every right to prevent works from being used in a way that are viewed as contrary to the interests of the represented community. I would wager that his invocation of legitimately held rights, and his view of how his community should act as a “compassionate society,” will win the day, and rightfully so.

    I would note that even if state and local works were not protected by Federal copyright law, they would likely be eligible for common law protection, states rights and all...

     

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:11am

      Re: mike is wrong

      The question of whether section 105 (the automatic public-domain dedication of government works) applies to state & local governments is not settled -- it's considered unclear, with the copyright office taking no official stance, and allowing registration of state materials based on the "rule of doubt" while waiting for a court to give a definitive answer (if that ever happens, which it might not)

      When "doubt" is right there in the copyright office's rule for accepting such registrations, I think "unclear" and/or "fuzzy" are quite accurate depictions of the status of the law

       

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      Lord_Unseen, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:14am

      Re: mike is wrong

      I'd be interested in what support you have for your statement? Seems like you're just trading his declaratory statement for one of your own. Seeing as there is a law that states the anything the Federal government produces is not covered by copyright, it seems reasonable that could apply to the state and local level too. Perhaps that state has a law to apply anything it or the local governments produce into copyright, but that seems unlikely. In that case, common law wouldn't cut it, since there wouldn't be any wording explicitly granting them copyright, but there is wording on the federal level not granting it.

       

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        Tubal (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 12:10pm

        Re: Re: mike is wrong

        Fair point asking me for my support… I offer the plain reading of 17 U.S.C. 105 and the definition of “work of the United States Government" in 17 U.S.C. 101, which is supported by every court interpretation of which I am aware, two of which are offered below.

        The prohibition on copyright protection for works of the United States Government “is the law with respect to work of the United States government (17 U.S.C. § 105), but there is no such provision relating to state governments. The statute relating to copyrights, 17 U.S.C. § 102, is not restricted to private parties and there is no reason to believe that such a restriction should be implied. In fact, the opposite inference is required when only one specific governmental entity, the United States of America, is excluded from the protection of the Act.”
        See, National Conference of Bar Examiners v. Multistate Legal Studies, Inc., 495 F. Supp. 34 (N.D. Ill. 1980), Affirmed, 692 F.2d 478 (7th Cir. 1982) .

        And, “section 105 of the new statute, and section 8 of the old statute apply by their terms only to the federal government, not to the state governments. Works of state governments are therefore left available for copyright protection by the state or the individual author, depending on state law and policy, and "subject to exceptions dictated by public policy with respect to such publications as statutes and judicial opinions."
        See, Building Officials & Code Adm. v. Code Technology, Inc., 628 F.2d 730, 735-736 (1st Cir. Mass. 1980)

         

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      Milton Freewater, Jun 7th, 2013 @ 2:02pm

      Re: mike is wrong

      "There is nothing “fuzzy” about the inherent copyright status of works created by local governments."

      I agree with you. They are obviously not copyrightable. A mugshot is a government record, and government records are not "works" as covered by copyright law.

      To flip it around, if mugshots are copyrighted, so are deeds of trust, marriage licenses, property records, police reports, etc. etc.

      Stating this obvious fact, which is crucial to our liberty, not not in any way diminish copyright law for those it actually addresses.

       

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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:44am

    "A compassionate society does not utilize the scarlet letter," he said"

    So is this guy an advocate for ending sex offender registries and felony labeling? If not, he is a hypocrite and needs to rethink his position.

     

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      identicon
      Rob, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:18am

      Re:

      That's what's called a strawman: re-writing the man's statement in order to refute the words you put in his mouth.

      A person arrested is not necessarily charged. A person charged is not necessarily convicted. And a person convicted is subject to legally sanctioned penalty. Sex offender registries and felony records are, whether one likes them or not, legally sanctioned punishments.

      Public humiliation, or the threat of public humiliation used for purposes of extortion are vigilantism or even approaching blackmail in the case of the for-profit mugshot sites that let you pay for removal.

      Again, keep in mind that entirely innocent people can be arrested. And many people are arrested for very minor crimes. If you want public humiliation in addition to fines and jail to be part of the legal process, you should lobby your government for that.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:50am

        Re: Re:

        Your explanation of the distinction is true, but I don't think that removes the inherent hypocrisy.

        Both actions (putting convicts on a sex offender registry and publishing mug shots) are legally sanctioned.

        Both actions "belittle and abuse our citizens", including citizens who may not be guilty in the way that the actions imply.

        A consistent person would consider them both acceptable, or both unacceptable, equally.

         

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 10:41am

        Re: Re:

        It already is part of the "rehabilitation" process. Once labeled a felon in the USA you are ostracized from society and jobs unless your family or friends will employ you.

         

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        E. Zachary Knight (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 11:44am

        Re: Re:

        Perhaps you are not aware of what a scarlet letter is. There was a book about it once. It involved a woman who was caught in an adulterous relationship and was forced to wear a red A on her at all times so that everyone knew she committed adultery. This resulted in her to be ostracized from society.

        Putting someone on a lifetime sex offender registry or labeling them a felon does much the same thing. Felons have trouble getting jobs. Sex offenders have trouble finding housing. Both labeling systems result in undue hardships and ostracizing of the person labeled.

        If ind it hard to understand how a "compassionate society" would endorse either scenario. I find it hard to understand how someone could advocate against a site that publishes mugshots, claiming that it is a form of scarlet lettering, while supporting a "justice" system that does far more damage.

         

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          velox (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 1:05pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The internet is changing many things. Among the most profound is the inability of the internet to forget.

          I think that society will eventually have to come to grips with this and decide what it really means to forgive. Much of what passed for forgiveness from society in the pre-internet age was simply forgetting due to the lack of access to old information. Now that the events of 20+ years ago are no more than a few key clicks away, we need to decide whether we are really going to forgive someone who has "paid their debt to society". We also need to decide what that debt really is.

          The Scarlett Letter needs an update.

           

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            Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 1:20pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Well said. It's a bit of an awkward transition now, but I've always felt it's going to adjust our norms for the better. Often I think of this in terms of the people who freak out that kids are racking up so much incriminating evidence of their behaviour that nobody will be able to get jobs, much less run for office, in the future.

            But in reality, the norms should adjust. When every candidate for a job or for office, every actor and singer and olympic athlete, has a few photos of them holding a whiskey bottle and a bong, society simply won't be able to condemn such activity so harshly. Indeed, people who don't have a little colour showing through their facade will probably seem eerily suspect (as they do already in extreme cases)

             

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              nasch (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 4:10pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Indeed, people who don't have a little colour showing through their facade will probably seem eerily suspect (as they do already in extreme cases)

              There are people who actually don't drink, do drugs, or cheat on their spouses, you know.

               

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                Niall (profile), Jun 6th, 2013 @ 9:04am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I think he means the ones who are suspiciously clean, not the ones who happen to be fine, upstanding citizens.

                The same way that anyone without an FB page will be 'assumed' to be 'hiding' something by unscrupulous employers...

                 

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                Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 6th, 2013 @ 11:52am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                There are people who actually don't drink, do drugs, or cheat on their spouses, you know.

                No, but the vast majority of people have at some point in their life (most often high school and/or college) done a few things that right now would be considered embarrassing or scandalous for a public figure. Drinking, drugs and adultery are certainly among the most common, but there are plenty of others like questionable activism/affiliation, "deviant" sexual behaviour of some brand or another, an outburst of violence, cheating at a test or a game...

                Personally, I'm not sure someone who has lived their life without any missteps is capable of understanding, much less leading, a populace made up mostly of imperfect people.

                 

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    identicon
    Bengie, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 8:54am

    What a guy

    Give him a pat on the back and let him know he's wrong in a nice way.

     

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    Jesse (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:38am

    They could contract a highschool portrait company who then claims the copyright on the photos. They could even make a deal to transfer the copyrights to a sheriff, or the individual being photographed.

     

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    identicon
    Anon, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 9:53am

    Interesting timing...

    Interesting to have this coming on the heels of the recent Supreme Court decision stating that arrestees (neither convicted nor necessarily charged with a crime) have a weakened or depressed right to privacy, such that taking their DNA is just fine.

    Does UT take DNA (yet)? If so, it would be especially galling for the same sheriff who is moaning about arrestees' privacy interests forcibly taking even more data about/from them...

     

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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 10:28am

    Gosh, what a shock!

    Go down to the level of a sheriff's department, and he could potentially argue that the prohibition on copyrighting works created by government don't apply
    Hmm, I wonder if this kind of thing wouldn't be such a problem if one had to actually register a copyright on things... it's almost like copyright law has been broken somehow.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 11:48am

    "as it shows a government deliberately blocking someone's speech."

    I'm sorry. "Speech"? This website sounds like it posts mugshots of people and then accepts money to take them down. What this sheriff SHOULD be doing is pushing for extortion charges.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 12:08pm

      Re:

      What he should do is nothing, mugshots are public data, heck Bill Gates has his mugshot splashed all over the place why others should receive any special treatment, just learn to live with it.

       

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    identicon
    AbbaDabba, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 1:02pm

    A little public shame...

    I think concern about shaming people who break the law is unfounded. They should be shamed. That's one reason we have rampant crime is no shame. Hey, get caught? Go to jail, get served three meals a day, clean bed, clean clothes, cable TV, library, exercise yard and all your friends and family are there. Shereiff Joe has the right idea. Put 'em in tents and make them work so they won't WANT to come back. Shame them a little and it might prevent others from making stupid decisions.

     

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      nasch (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 4:12pm

      Re: A little public shame...

      I think concern about shaming people who break the law is unfounded.

      These are people who have been arrested. They are still presumed innocent at the time of the mug shots.

       

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    ken (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 5:43pm

    Already a Utah Law that may have applied.

    What is perplexing is there is already a Utah State law passed this year that prohibits mug-shots from being used by outfits that post them for profit or charge to remove them.

    The Sheriff merely needed to cite this law but instead made this story much bigger than it would have been by citing copyright. Sheriff Winder meet Streisand.

    http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillenr/HB0408.htm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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