Trump’s $7 Million Gain From His Mugshot Could Go To Fulton County Amid Copyright Issue

Donald Trump has capitalized on his Fulton County mugshot, potentially infringing U.S. copyright laws while raking in substantial profits. It seems that the former president’s keen understanding of his loyal voter base led him to believe they would eagerly purchase merchandise bearing his iconic visage.

However, a closer look at the legal aspects of this venture should have been a priority for his legal team.

As reported by Politico, Trump’s sales soared to over $7 million within the first week following his indictment in the Georgia election interference case. Trump’s fundraising strategy involved capitalizing on his mugshot by selling merchandise, including $34 mugshot-themed t-shirts and “Never Surrender” coffee mugs priced at $25, both adorned with the now-infamous photograph. However, this strategy appears to have violated U.S. copyright laws, potentially subjecting Trump to significant financial liabilities.

A 2022 article in the University of Georgia School of Law’s Journal of Intellectual Property Law highlighted a critical point: “In the context of photographs taken by law enforcement during the booking process, the author of the mugshot photograph is the law enforcement agency.”

This revelation potentially opens the door for the Fulton County sheriff to pursue legal action against Trump for these substantial profits. MSNBC has noted that Fulton County finds itself in dire need of funds to address the deplorable conditions within its jail facilities. This could indeed be an ominous legal storm brewing for the former president, who is already mired in various legal challenges.

Ironically, Trump’s advisor, Chris LaCivita, had previously issued a stern warning against anyone attempting to profit from the former president’s mugshot without prior permission. In a tweet that may soon come back to haunt him, LaCivita stated, “If you are a campaign, PAC, scammer and you try raising money off the mugshot of @realDonaldTrump and you have not received prior permission… WE ARE COMING AFTER YOU; you will NOT SCAM DONORS.”

Trump’s mugshot has become a viral sensation on social media, with millions of people sharing it, and entrepreneurial individuals seeking to capitalize on its popularity. Countless memes and merchandise featuring the mugshot have flooded the internet.

Arrested in August, Trump is entangled in charges of 13 felony racketeering and conspiracy offenses. Opting to skip the formality, the documents reveal that Trump chose to forego the judge’s reading of these charges during his plea in Fulton County.

Trump has boldly pleaded not guilty.

Is profiteering mugshots allowed?

However, the burning question remains: is this even legally permissible? Betsy Rosenblatt, a professor at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law, points out that mugshots are typically protected by copyright in most jurisdictions. Unauthorized use, reproduction, distribution, or public display of mugshots is generally prohibited.

So, will the numerous individuals already profiting from the mugshot face legal consequences? Rosenblatt clarifies that pursuing a copyright infringement claim would likely fall upon the copyright owner, which in this case is presumably the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department.

Rosenblatt adds, “Whether the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department would decide to enforce its copyright is entirely up to them. “ But it’s also reasonable to think that the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office might think, you know, this is a public document, it belongs to the world in a way, [the] copyright belongs to us. But the news about it belongs to the world. And we’re not going to undertake the expense and trouble of hiring copyright counsel and sending out takedowns and cease and desist and letters, or in lawsuits.”

She notes that recent cases have yielded varying outcomes, with some courts ruling in favor of fair use and others requiring permission from the copyright owner. Rosenblatt advises individuals to seek legal counsel before commercially releasing products to ensure a strong fair use argument.

Rosenblatt highlights that the First Amendment offers certain allowances for activities like parody, newsworthiness, commentary, and criticism. Nevertheless, despite mugshots often falling into the public domain and sometimes being released to the public, many states have complex laws concerning individuals’ privacy, creating potential risks for those who use them without proper consideration.

The indictment in Georgia marks the fourth one this year for the former president, further intensifying his legal challenges as the 2024 election looms. He’s the first US president to be indicted at this rate in the history of the country.

Information for this story was found via Spectrum News 1, Yahoo News, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses

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