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Published: Wednesday, 1/8/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

INTERNET SUIT

Web site opts to settle, pay over use of mugshots

Company charged fee for removal of photos

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A mugshot Web site named in a civil lawsuit has agreed to settle with three people who claimed their images were exploited for commercial gain.

According to attorneys in the case, Citizens Information Associates LLC has agreed to pay $7,500 to Debra Lashaway of Holland, and Phillip Kaplan and Otha Randall, both of Toledo. Mr. Kaplan is a Web desk editor at The Blade.

The lawsuit was filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in December, 2012, and later transferred to U.S. District Court in Toledo, where it was assigned to Judge Jack Zouhary.

Citizens Information Associates, which operates Busted-Mugshots.com and Mugshots-Online.com, was among the online companies accused in the complaint of posting photos and names of people on Web sites and charging a fee to have the information removed.

The lawsuit claimed that many of the people posted on such Web sites had been found not guilty or that the charges had been dismissed.

Scott Ciolek, a Toledo attorney for the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit challenged the Web sites on grounds that his clients’ images are protected under Ohio’s publicity rights law and that the Web sites cannot use their persona for commercial gain without written consent.

“This is a major victory for individual rights. But it is only the first step in the protection of these rights in what is becoming a very large industry based on extortion,” Mr. Ciolek said about the settlement.

Judge Zouhary signed an order on Dec. 27 dismissing the litigation with prejudice.

Joseph Centrich, an attorney for Citizens Information Associates, said the agreement to dismiss the lawsuit also calls for the names and images of the three plaintiffs to be removed from his client’s Web sites.

He said his client also agreed to stop charging for the removal of the photos and names of people. He said the company is already allowing for people to use the Web site to take down information about arrests.

“My client is happy to have the litigation behind them. They maintain that they never violated any laws,” Mr. Centrich said.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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