Are mugshots public domain?

Are mugshots public domain? 

It’s more likely than not that they are. All works made by federal agencies are automatically in the public domain, so if the mugshot was made by a federal agency like the FBI, it is certainly in the public domain.

However, states and state agencies can make their own rules about how they want to handle their intellectual property rights. Often though, states still release their works in entirety to the public domain. 

Keep in mind that, even if mugshots are released into the public, many states have relatively complicated laws regarding a person’s privacy. There are also restrictions on how someone else’s likeness can be used. Finally, there might be practical reasons why you would not be able to obtain someone’s mugshot. Police agencies may restrict the use of mugshots for a variety of reasons.



If you have any questions about whether you can use a specific mugshot for a specific purpose, feel free to contact New Media Rights via our contact form to find out whether you qualify for free or reduced fee legal services. We also offer competitive full fee legal services on a selective basis. For more information on the services we provide click here. Please note NMR attorneys are only licensed to practice in California and we can only answer questions related to mug shots from federal agencies or law enforcement entities in California. Also, at this time New Media Rights Attorneys cannot act as your attorney to get your mugshot taken down.


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