Former President Donald Trump has taken full advantage of his mugshot that was taken when he surrendered to authorities in Fulton County, Georgia, in response to the criminal indictment revolving around claims of election interference.
Politico reported recently that Trump earned more than $7 million from selling various merchandise with the mugshot on it. Accompanied by the phrase “Never Surrender,” Trump sold everything from coffee mugs to t-shirts, and made that much money in just one week after he was officially indicted.
If nothing else, Trump is – and has always been – a great marketer, and he has proven that again with this move.
However, it’s very possible that all the money that he earned from selling that merchandise may have been done illegally, and could be taken from him.
Some people have pointed to a 2022 article that appeared in the “Journal of Intellectual Property Law” that is published by the University of Georgia School of Law. One passage in that article reads:
“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 that journal article, the law enforcement agency that took the mugshot, then, would be the rightful owner of the photograph. In other words, since Trump doesn’t own the image – even though it is of him – he wouldn’t have the legal right to profit off it.
It’s very possible that the sheriff in Fulton County could seek to capture all the profit that Trump has made from the merchandise sales that include his mugshot. That wouldn’t be a far-fetched idea, either.
For one, law enforcement in Fulton County has already seemed to be against Trump from the get-go, with Democrat Fanni Willis leading the two-plus-year investigation into election interference and then charging him with multiple felony crimes.
In addition, the jail in Fulton County is in desperate need of repairs and upgrades, and could certainly benefit from a huge influx of cash.
As columnist Dean Obeidallah wrote recently for MSNBC:
“Theoretically, the millions [Trump] is making off that photo may rightfully belong to the Fulton County sheriff – an entity that just happens to be in desperate need of funds to address the horrific conditions in the Fulton County jail.”
He further wrote that the Sheriff’s Office in Fulton County might have “exclusive rights under U.S. copyright law to reproduce, sell or otherwise distribute Trump’s mugshot, except for certain uses like publishing the photo for news purposes.”
“It’s true the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office did release the mugshot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone else has the right to reproduce and sell it for a profit, as the Trump campaign is doing.”
Ironically enough, Chris LaCivita, one of Trump’s advisers, threatened action against anyone who decided to create merchandise of their own that included the mugshot.
On X, the social media network formerly known as Twitter, he wrote recently:
“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.”