Former U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign may be violating copyright laws by selling merchandise with his mugshot, some legal experts have warned.
After Trump became the first former president to be officially booked for a criminal case, the Trump campaign published online several products with the mugshot that, in just three days, raised 7.1 million dollars.
The Trump campaign offered T-shirts, mugs, koozies and bumper stickers with the message "Never surrender!", used by the former president as an expression of denunciation against what he considers a political persecution against him.
However, under Georgia law, the money amassed could legitimately belong to whoever took the photo: the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, the legal owner of the former president's mugshot.
"In the context of photographs taken by law enforcement during the booking process, the author of the mugshot photograph is the law enforcement agency," according to the Journal of Intellectual Property Law at the University of Georgia School of Law.
Some jurists also think the former president's campaign is violating copyright law. Although, ultimately, the decision to sue rests with the Fulton County Sheriff's Office.
For example, MSNBC's Dean Obeidallah wrote an op-ed explaining that the Trump campaign did not make a substantial alteration to the mugshot and therefore would not be using a new or different photograph than the one taken by Fulton police. By making a lot of money from the photo, Obeidallah says, the Trump campaign also can't claim proper or legitimate use of the material.
Betsy Rosenblatt, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, also told Spectrum News 1 Ohio that there are limits to the uses of such photographs.
"You’re prohibited from using it for a number of things without authorization," Rosenblatt said. "You’re prohibited from reproducing it, making a derivative work of it, distributing it without authorization, or that is to say distributing anything that isn’t the one copy you already lawfully have, and various other things. Making a public display of it, making a public performance of it, which opens up all kinds of fascinating possibilities here."