The dozen-page tabloid collects scores of recent arrest photos from law enforcement agencies around the metro. It's printed twice monthly, and sells for $1.
But City Pages found some law breaking going on by the publishers of Local MugSHOTS: It's plagiarizing copyrighted articles from local news organizations.[jump]
Not just publishing stories on similar topics. Not just interviewing the same sources. The Florida-based publication is reprinting--in most cases word-for-word--articles from KARE-11, Fox 9, The Des Moines Register, City Pages, and more, offering no attribution to the source of the content.
"Yeah, you can't do that," says William McGeveran, a University of Minnesota law professor who reviewed several of these articles at City Pages' request. "Copyright law-wise, if it's direct copying without permission of really substantial portions, that's copyright infringement, and not fair use."
For example, compare an article from a recent Local MugSHOTS side-by-side with this screenshot of a December KARE-11 article:
Every single word is the same except for the time reference in the first sentence and KARE-11's copyright notice at the end.
This is not an isolated example. In an edition of the tabloid purchased this Sunday, at least 10 articles are lifted from other news sources.
Because Local MugSHOTS doesn't publish its stories online, it's much harder to detect the plagiarism. But almost every single story featured in the newspaper is stolen from a competitor in the Twin Cities, without attribution, in flagrant violation of copyright and common sense.
Here's another example where Local MugSHOTS plagiarizes a story originally published by Fox 9:
Here's one of six stories in the newest issue copied from CityPages.com:
McGeveran analyzed three examples of articles plagiarized in Local MugSHOTS sent to him by City Pages. Because the articles are copying several paragraphs word-for-word, Local MugSHOTS is not protected by the fair use exemption to copyright.
"They're nowhere near fair use," McGeveran says of Local MugSHOTS. "The fact that they are a private business charging for the content doesn't help them."
Max Cannon, publisher of Local MugSHOTS, started the company about a decade ago in Tennessee. It began as something akin to a newsletter, distributed in the waiting rooms of local doctors' offices.
"Then I started throwing a few mugshots on there," Cannon says. "Eventually, that became the popular aspect of it, so we kinda evolved over the years and became what it is now. But when we started, there was nobody else with a crime tabloid like what we have."
Cannon's company, SafeCITY Publishing, now distributes Local MugSHOTS in 19 different states, he says. Though he runs a private business, he considers his work to be an extension of the justice system.
"In our 10-year history, I've never paid for a single mugshot," he says."We've developed those sources over the years, and we get with them and they provide us access to databases, because they see what we're trying to do with working in conjunction with them to lessen crime and catch criminals, and so we work hand in hand with their objectives."
But when we asked Cannon about the rampant plagiarism in his Twin Cities publication, he seemed less than forthcoming:
City Pages: Pages eight through 11 are brief crime stories ...Though Cannon presides over a business that publishes oft-unflattering photos of people, we couldn't find a single picture of him online, flattering or otherwise.
Cannon: Mmm I don't have it in front of me, and I don't do the content on that particular edition, so, I don't have that right in front of me.
CP: All of these articles are lifted from other local news organizations.
Cannon: Uhhh, I don't have that person--she's not here today.
CP: There about six articles in here that were actually in City Pages...
Cannon: So that's why you called?
CP: Well, that's one--
Cannon: [HANGS UP]