From The Plain Dealer
ebra Lashaway is realizing that the Internet never forgets.
Years after she was exonerated of a theft charge, she remains online through a lasting image of her arrest: a mug shot.
“It’s an embarrassment,” the suburban Toledo mother said. “I want to put my past behind me, but I can’t. It’s always there.”
The jail mug shot — the photo that captures one of a person’s lowest points — has become a lightning rod on the Internet. A class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo claims that companies that post the mug shots and charge money to take them down are nothing more than extortionists.
The suit says the companies are using people like Lashaway in a commercial way to benefit their business, a violation of Ohio’s Right of Publicity Law. The suit contends that more than 250,000 people in Ohio have been harmed by web sites such as JustMugshots.com,BustedMugshots.com and mugshots.com.
“What they’re doing with these web sites is akin to someone setting your house on fire and then charging you to put it out,” said Scott Ciolek, an attorney representing Lashaway and others in the suit. “That’s what these companies are doing. In my opinion, it is tantamount to extortion. That’s also an infringement on publicity rights.”
In court documents, one of the companies in the suit says it simply publishes public documents, an act that is covered by the First Amendment, and any attempt to prevent the pictures from going online would be a form of censorship. It also says the real reason behind the service is “to provide notice of potentially dangerous neighbors and to assist law enforcement,” the documents said.