Why do they extort.

This is not a ‘mugshot business' or ‘mugshot industry'. This is extortion... The demand: “Pay up or it stays up.” Many of these sites defend their right to publish mugshots — which are public records in many states — by claiming they are news organizations: They're not a ‘news organization’ by any stretch of the imagination, They have zero/zilch bona fide news media credentials... They break every accountable, professional, bona fide news media/news-reporting 'code of ethics' out there."
Donnelly contacted me shortly after my blog post ran to comment on the mugshot phenomenon. He immediately began outlining his plan to deactivate this mugshot minefield. His solution is to legislate a public records exemption for those who would be using the records for "commercial purposes." Donnelly, a Fort Worth, Texas, resident, is currently lobbying his representatives to enact such a clause in his home state's FOI law. Presumably, such an exemption would prevent companies from exploiting public record laws while allowing news organizations to continue with their business.
At first blush, such an exemption seems conceptually absurd. Public records are considered such because the information they provide is of value to the community and necessary to maintain an informed citizenry. The information itself does not change based on the purpose and intent of the party distributing that information. The public is informed regardless and the objective of FOI law is met. There is also the issue of news media having commercial purposes, and so a commercial exemption could result in potential First Amendment conflicts. Further, if the intent of such a proposal is to distinguish journalists from mere profit-seekers such as the aforementioned reputation companies, then legislators would be marching into an ongoing battle over the definition of "journalist."
Indiana, for example, allows its agencies and "political subdivisions" to prohibit the release of public information in electronic form, if that information is to be used for commercial purposes. Ind. Code. § 5-14-3-3. This bar to public information does not apply to the "publication of news," but as shown by one state official's explanation, the distinction can be a difficult one to make. In a dispute last year over a website's access to digital mugshot photos, Indiana's Public Access Counselor, Andrew J. Kossack, wrote the following:
...if a newspaper received the type of records sought in the request at issue here, it could publish a story about some aspect of the arrest process generally or about the particular arrestees specifically... But the same newspaper could be restricted from establishing a for-profit, fee-based database on its website that used the information to "sell, advertise, or solicit the purchase of merchandise, goods, or services."



Sunday, July 15th, 9pm


2601 Mission St. | San Francisco

Schedule of events:

7:00pm - Cocktails & Nibbles

8:30pm - Screening of Gone with the Wind

10:30pm - Late night dinner


Amazing cocktails at the Elegant Swan. We recommend the cranberry cocktail. Absolutely delicious!


Walk around the corner for a late night dinner at Moma's Kitchen, where they combine impeccable glamour with tasty dishes.



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Hop across the street to the Electric Cinema, for a special screening of Gone with the Wind