Old Mug Shots Fuel Art, and a Debate on Privacy

The New York Times


Two young women in Cincinnati are testing the fringes of Fabulous Fifties nostalgia by selling reproductions of 1955 police mug shots. And their company, Larken Design, has found such a good response here that it is expanding.

But who owns that history? “There are ongoing questions about the privacy of people listed in court records,” says Jason Schultz, a director of the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at the law school of the University of California, Berkeley. “We think, ‘Wow it’s in the public record,’ but in reality if it’s in a file somewhere that you can’t Google, it remains private until we need it. Now that records are becoming more public, I think courts are trying to think about how to be sensitive to those interests given that they can be indexed by search engines, copied and reposted.”