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Local MugSHOTS continues to plagiarize Twin Cities news outlets

The crew at Local MugSHOTS is still ripping off articles from Twin Cities news outlets.

In January, we reported that the Florida-based crime tabloid was plagiarizing stories from City Pages, Fox 9, Kare 11, and more. This means large chunks of content lifted verbatim, without attribution. The tabloid sells for $1 at local convenience stores and gas stations.

The most recent issue of Local MugSHOTS also heavily features borrowed content from Twin Cities news outlets, including eight stories that bear a striking resemblance to WCCO articles and one to a KSTP article.

More so than the last issue we examined, this one shows some attempt to omit select words or shuffle around paragraphs, making the plagiarism slightly less obvious. But much of the text seems to be simply copied and pasted from the original news source.

"There are a few small changes, perhaps more changes than there were in the first set," says University of Minnesota law professor William McGeveran, who has examined articles in Local MugSHOTS for City Pages. "But there's still pretty much wholesale copying here, which looks like it would be a copyright claim to me."

Here's a side-by-side example of a story originally published on WCCO's website January 25, ripped off by Local MugSHOTS:

The Local MugSHOTS version (right) omits or changes a few words, but the bulk of the text is copied and pasted from the original WCCO story (left).
The Local MugSHOTS version (right) omits or changes a few words, but the bulk of the text is copied and pasted from the original WCCO story (left).

Despite the attempt to alter text, the stories share uncanny similarities. And while facts can't be copyrighted, stealing the same language is not protected by fair use laws, explains McGeveran.

"It's OK to look at a news report, glean the facts, and then express them your own way," says McGeveran. "But if you're taking all of the language and expression that's used, that will violate copyright law."

Michael Caputa, WCCO's news director, declined to comment for this story.

Here's another example of a story originally published by WCCO. Notice how Local MugSHOTS simply changes an attribution from "Prosecutors" to "Deputies," at the expense of accuracy:

Despite a few word changes and some shuffled paragraphs, the Local MugSHOTS version (right) is eerily similar to the original WCCO story (left).
Despite a few word changes and some shuffled paragraphs, the Local MugSHOTS version (right) is eerily similar to the original WCCO story (left).

So why is Local MugSHOTS blatantly ripping off Twin Cities news outlets?

When we asked publisher Max Cannon this question last month, he was less than forthcoming.

Read more about Local MugSHOTS and an excerpt from our interview with Cannon here.


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